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When George Orwell Got in a Fight With the Anarchist Author of The Joy of Sex

The future 1984 scribe debated pacifism with Dr. Alex Comfort in 1942.

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The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort, by Eric Laursen, AK Press, 176 pages, $16

In 1972 Dr. Alex Comfort had a colossal hit with The Joy of Sex, making him suddenly rich and famous. Less famously, in World War II Britain, a much younger Alex Comfort had a heated dispute in print with George Orwell.

Orwell was an enthusiastic supporter of the war against Hitler, while Comfort was opposed to the war. Outside narrow literary and political circles, neither man was very well-known. Orwell had published several books and dozens of articles, but he had yet to write Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four. Comfort, 17 years Orwell's junior, had produced a couple of novels, several poems, and some works of anarchist theory. His most enduring work came a few years later: Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State, which makes a good case that politics is an artificial game preserve for the kinds of anti-social predators whom it is a function of normal social life to curb and discourage.

Later, Comfort was to make his name as a medical researcher and a gerontologist—a scientific theorist of aging. He could little have dreamt, in 1942, that his novels, his poems, and political writings would never attract a wide readership, that his medical studies would be known only to specialists, and that he would yet become, at least for a few years, the most famous man in the world—"Dr. Sex." He could also scarcely have imagined that, despite outliving Orwell by 50 years (Orwell died in 1950, Comfort in 2000), and despite becoming briefly a household name, even his extraordinary fame would ultimately be far surpassed by Orwell's.

We don't know how Orwell would have changed his views had he lived longer. He was susceptible to changes of political allegiance, some sudden and some gradual. We do know what happened to Comfort: Less intellectually volatile than Orwell, he maintained essentially the same anarcho-pacifist outlook for the rest of his life.

The Orwell-Comfort debate occurred in 1942, most importantly in the pages of the Partisan Review, an American journal run at that time by former Trotskyists and open to various kinds of anti-Communist left-wing thinking. There was a brief continuation of the debate (in verse!) the following year, in a British socialist weekly, Tribune. The editors of Partisan Review were themselves split on whether to support America's war against the Axis powers. The leading figure, Dwight Macdonald, was firmly antiwar and never regretted it.

A striking fact about debates over "pacifism," especially when they occur during a war or during preparations for a war, is that discussion of the most fundamental, abstract principles tends to become disconnected from the practical choices facing decision makers. In the early 1940s there was only one major policy choice for Britain: Either pursue the war against Germany, or accept Hitler's repeated offers of a peace deal. There were strong arguments on both sides. But in his new book, The Duty to Stand Aside, Eric Laursen gives the impression that there was some third alternative.

Suppose the impossible, that "pacifism" were to have steadily increased in popular appeal in the 1940s. Then there would have come a point (20 percent pacifist support? 25 percent? 30 percent?) where the government would have felt obliged to fire Churchill and bring back Halifax to start talks with Ribbentrop. What third option could there be? Yet the anarchists did not campaign for a peace settlement. They would have nothing, on principle, to do with the evil British government, not even to stop the slaughter.

Orwell and the anarchists mostly talked past each other. Orwell argued that if you were a pacifist, you were objectively "pro-fascist." He threw in the additional claim that pacifists had a psychological tendency to become sympathetic to fascism. Orwell therefore called pacifists "fascifists," a term he liked to pretend he was quoting as a phrase already in currency, though it appears to have been a piece of terminology he had personally coined. In common with the left in general, Orwell used the word "fascist" primarily to refer to National Socialist Germany.

There is certainly something in the suggestion that if you oppose your own government when it is in conflict with x, then you must be to some extent objectively helping x. But to put that fact into perspective, this was a war of choice for Britain. Britain declared war on Germany and continued the war after France capitulated. Britain rejected all of Hitler's offers to negotiate a peace. A negotiated peace would have saved millions of lives. Orwell, like other supporters of the war, spoke of the danger of being invaded by Germany, without mentioning the fact that Germany had no interest in invading Britain except to stop the war Britain was pursuing.

The anarcho-pacifists appeared less concerned than Orwell with the practical results of their arguments, more concerned with doing what was morally right. Under the cover of fighting fascism, Britain and the U.S. were sometimes equaling or even outdoing fascist atrocities, especially with their campaign of "area bombing"—the extermination bombing of working-class communities. Orwell responded (in his exchange with the pacifist Vera Brittain) by cheerfully declaring that it was a good thing war deaths were now more randomly distributed among the population.

Anarchists and other antiwar leftists often said that in the event of a German invasion they would support armed resistance against the Nazis but they would not support the Churchill government's war against Germany. The Independent Labour Party leader and member of Parliament, James Maxton, continued to maintain this position throughout the war. It was inherently unpersuasive, because getting a German army across the channel and into Britain was something like 80 percent of the task of occupying Britain. It made more sense to stop them coming than to wait till they arrived to fight them. (We now know that for Germany to try to invade and occupy Britain would have had virtually zero chance of success. But at the time, it was widely believed to be both feasible and likely.)

Laursen gives a fair account of the Orwell-Comfort confrontation and the surrounding circumstances. There are one or two small inaccuracies. For example, Laursen follows numerous other writers in stating that Orwell switched from antiwar to pro-war following Hitler's invasion of Poland. But we have no reason to reject Orwell's own account that he abruptly underwent this conversion upon awakening from a dream about the coming war, on the morning of August 22, 1939, 10 days before the invasion of Poland and a few minutes before he read the press reports of Ribbentrop's flight to Moscow.

Comfort at the time, and various anarchists since, tend to overrate the extent to which Orwell and Comfort were thinking along the same lines and therefore might have come closer to agreement. Orwell got on well with individual anarchists, with whom he shared a lot of leftist assumptions along with a detestation for the Communist Party. But it was no surprise to anyone that the anarchist Freedom Press declined to publish Animal Farm because of its author's statist ideology. After 1935, Orwell had absolutely no truck, and virtually no patience, with any kind of anarchism or pacifism. His thinking is more closely aligned with Arthur Koestler's and even James Burnham's: He thought that social order always rests on coercion and the future inescapably lies with large-scale, centrally directed organization.

Laursen attempts to restate and defend Comfort's conception of anarchist society. But the variety of anarchism envisioned by Comfort cannot exist. British anarchists of the 1940s were socialists. They saw anarchist society as being controlled by small autonomous groups not mediated by commercial transactions. The possibility of (for example) an investor receiving an interest return on the production made possible by his savings is excluded from their system. Yet they assumed that their anarchism would permit modern industry and high living standards.

These two features of their imagined anarcho-socialism cannot co-exist in reality. Modern industry depends on the transmission of information through market prices. Without that, their society could only be one of primitive technology and low living standards. (Orwell in fact said this in his 1945 review of a book by the British anarchist Herbert Read, though he gave the wrong reason: He supposed that machine production was ineluctably leading to a centrally directed economy.)

In Orwell's view, neither capitalism nor anarchy had any conceivable future. His pressing intellectual problem was how to prevent what he saw as the inescapable collectivist system of the future from extinguishing democracy and all personal freedom, as in Nineteen Eighty-Four. This problem simply did not arise in the minds of anarcho-pacifists like Comfort, because unlike Orwell they saw no inevitability in a centrally planned economy. And on this point they were right.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You know who else opposed the war against Hitler?

    If maintaining my brand wasn't so important to me, I would change my name to Fascifist of Etiquette.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Since Trump is literally Hitler... the Antifa, which are literally fascists.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Nice article, but you might have pointed out that Orwell essentially borrowed the "objectively pro-fascist" epithet from the communists, who used it to berate all their enemies on the left.

    Hitler did plan an invasion of Great Britain, "Operation Sea Lion", which he took more seriously than most of his military leaders. The British navy's record in WWII wasn't that outstanding, but, seeing as the Germans couldn't prevent the British from leaving Europe, it's likely that the British could prevent the Germans from landing in Britain.

  • John||

    Had the Germans been given peace in 1940, given the immense resources then available to them, they could have easily built a navy sufficient to hold the English Channel in the interum.

  • JWatts||

    "Had the Germans been given peace in 1940,..."

    The Soviet Union would have been screwed. Hitler would have almost certainly not declared War on the US if he had signed peace terms with the UK. Indeed, the reason Hitler declared war on the US so readily was due to the massive amount of aid that the US was already providing the British.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Hitler declared war on the USA because Japan had declared war on the USA and the USA had been violating neutrality. Germany, Japan, and Italy were all members of the Tri-Parte Pact. This Pact had clauses that one member would declare war if another member declared war. Hitler weighed this decision to declare war on the USA for 3 days.

  • prolefeed||

    So you're saying that Hitler was a man of his word who honored treaties and pacts he'd made?

    Stalin was a bit surprised when Hitler "honored" their non-aggression pact using the Wehrmacht.

    Hitler declared war on the US because he decided it was in his best interests to do so.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    While it is true that Hitler decision about DoW was his own to make, it was based on the two things that I mentioned.

    Otherwise, why didnt he declare war on the USA in 1940 when the USA was actively sinking U-boots?
    Why didn't he wait until 1943 to declare war on the USA?

    Among the many regrets that Hitler mentioned later, one was declaring war on the USA. That first American 1000 plane fire bombing run on Dresden was a huge wake up call.

  • Radioactive||

    sucks to be Hitler, literally.

  • mtrueman||

    "Otherwise, why didnt he declare war on the USA in 1940 when the USA was actively sinking U-boots?"

    You really need to familiarize yourself with what the uboats were up to during the first part of the war. The period of 1940 to 1941 was know to the kriegsmarine as 'the happy time,' when uboats operated in the Atlantic virtually unopposed, inflicting massive damage to allied shipping. The US was not sinking German uboats. It was the other way around.

  • effinayright||

    Ermmm..perhaps you mean Britain's bombing of Hamburg in July, 1943. Or maybe the Battle of Berlin in November the same year.

    The British/American bombings of Dresden occurred in 1945; by that time the Krauts had long been woken up, and in fact weren't doing much sleeping..

    And the US was NOT sinking U-boats in 1940. The first such sinking came in March, 1942, when the destroyer USS Roper successfully attacked a German sub, U-85, off North Carolina.

    Other than that, you are obviously a FINE and nuanced historian!

  • Mickey Rat||

    Under the terms of their agreement, the Axis members were under no obligation to declare war on another country if one of the members declared war first. It was structured as a mutual defense treaty. That is why Japan never declared war on the Soviets. Hitler did not do anything about FDR's neutrality violations in escorting British convoys because he needed Japan to keep the US Navy occupied in the Pacific and waited until they were committed to war against the US.

  • Whorton||

    How can anyone honestly believe that Hitler would have honored a peace treaty with Brittan after showing that peace treaties were merely cessation of hostilities until he was ready to attack? Remember that "Non aggression pact" with the Soviets?

  • mtrueman||

    Soviet Union was governed by communists like Stalin and Molotov. Britain was a constitutional monarchy, ruled by Tories and aristocrats many of whom were sympathetic to Nazism, and not keen to fight a war. Putting together an appeasement cabinet wouldn't have been much of a stretch.

  • Echo Chamber||

    My version of history has the RAF destroying the invasion boats that Hitler was trying to assemble. Operation Sea Lion was more than just a plan

  • zazoo||

    True, but they were river boats weren't they? The Germans had no specialized equipment and no experience in amphibious warfare.

    By D-Day the Americans had two years of experience at amphibious warfare behind them and it still was immensely difficult.

    So Sea Lion was a no hoper.... though I fully accept that's with the benefit of hindsight.

  • Rossami||

    re: "seeing as the Germans couldn't prevent the British from leaving Europe, it's likely that the British could prevent the Germans from landing in Britain."

    There is a world of difference between maintaining a blockade and conducting an invasion. In some ways, conducting an invasion is actually easier because you only have to succeed once. A blockade must be maintained indefinitely.

    For a modern example, our attempts at drug interdiction are futile and almost entirely ineffective despite the deployment of some of the best military technology and resources on the planet. The invasion of Panama, however, was a cake-walk.

  • Radioactive||

    so in the War on Drugs, who do we invade? I know, let's carpet bomb Mexico!

  • Rossami||

    Bombing Mexico might be one of the few things more stupid than the War on Drugs itself. Nevertheless, it would be easy to carry out even though we are utterly incapable of interdicting drugs. My point was to rebut Alan's claim that the failure of the German blockade of England automatically means that English would have been able to stop a German invasion.

  • Radioactive||

    heh, heh, you typed rebut, heh heh.

  • John||

    But to put that fact into perspective, this was a war of choice for Britain. Britain declared war on Germany and continued the war after France capitulated. Britain rejected all of Hitler's offers to negotiate a peace. A negotiated peace would have saved millions of lives.

    It would only have saved "millions of lives" if it would have been an actual negotiated peace and not just a temperary resbit in the conflict before Hitler started making war again. Pascifists never seem to understand that you can only have peace if your enemies grant it to you. They always assume that if you just give your enemies what they want you will get peace. Sometimes you do. But often times you just delay the inevitable conflict and make the resulting conflict even worse. Europe had tried a negotiated peace with Hitler multiple times. They allowed him to rebuild the German military in the name of peace. They allowed him to militarize the Rhineland in the name of peace. Most infamously they allowed him to enslave Czechoslovakia in the name of peace. Each time the pacifists claimed that "a negotiated peace would save millions of lives".

    No, a negotiated peace would not have saved any lives and likely would have cost them in the long run. The peace would have only lasted until Hitler took Russia out of the war and then turned all of his efforts back towards England, who would have at that point been completely alone.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Exactly, John. Further evidence of this would be the Molotov-Ribbertropp Pact of 1939 which temporarily delayed war between Nazi Germany and the USSR from 1939 to June 1941.

    Armistice at the end of WWI just delayed Germany's utter defeat until 1945, while tens of millions of people died during WWII.

  • John I||

    "It would only have saved "millions of lives" if it would have been an actual negotiated peace and not just a temperary resbit in the conflict before Hitler started making war again"

    Even then it wouldn't have saved millions of lives because Hitler would have ethnically cleansed as much of Europe as possible. Fewer people might have died from war in the short term, but that's not much comfort to all the people who get to watch their children get bayoneted in a Polish village or who are themselves carted off to Auschwitz

  • Teddy Pump||

    "I know the True meaning of Peace & it is not Pacifism"

    -Winston Churchill

  • Whorton||

    "Pacifists never seem to understand that you can only have peace if your enemies grant it to you."

    Well said.

  • Teddy Pump||

    And make no mistake, if it ended up being that Germany & Japan were the victors, Germany would've attacked Japan too!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The anarcho-pacifists appeared less concerned than Orwell with the practical results of their arguments, more concerned with doing what was morally right.

    Sound familiar, Twitter mob? Sound familiar, flag kneelers? Sound familiar, troop supporters? Sound familiar, pretty much every march on DC? Virtue signaling makes you just like anpacs. Yuck.

  • John||

    If your actions result in your being a bystander to the murder and enslavement of millions of people, maybe your actions are not so morally right? Principles are essential but they are not the answer to every question. If they were, there would never be such a thing as a moral dilema. The world is much more complex and dirty than half wit intellectuals try to tell themselves it is.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Orwell, like other supporters of the war, spoke of the danger of being invaded by Germany, without mentioning the fact that Germany had no interest in invading Britain except to stop the war Britain was pursuing.

    Actually Nazi Germany DID have plans to invade Britain and it was called Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sealion). The first part was to secure air supremacy over Britain. This part of the plan failed during the Battle of Britain. Hitler turned his attention and armed forces to the USSR.

  • John||

    That is just a complete lie. The Germans wanted to invade and occupy Britian. Hitler's conquest of Europe was in many ways a story of always running out of other people's money. The Nazis rebuilt the German military while taxing German citizens very little for what they got. They paid for the military and a lot of other things first by confiscating the property of Jews and political enemies in Germany. When that money ran out they moved on to Austria and so on. Hitler invaded Russia and would have had he gotten the chance invaded England because he had to. The entire Nazi economic system was built on looting and enslaving the rest of the world for the benefit of Germans.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Socialism at its core.

  • Radioactive||

    National Socialism at its' core

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    What the heck is a lie? Everything he said is true. The Nazis were in no way ready for an invasion; their plans included barges towed across the channel, and theydidn't have the barges either. Goering promised he would knock the RAF out so the Lufftwaffe could knock out the Royal Navy; he failed. And Hitler turned to the east.

    That's what happened, that's what he said, and you say it's a complete lie.

    You are an ignorant idiot.

  • John||

    You are a complete moron. The fact that they were not ready in 1940 doesn't mean that they would not have been ready and able to do so after a few years of peaace and access to all of Europe.

    You really need to make more intelligent points before you start calling people names.

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    lc1789 said nothing about not coming back after 1940. You made that up after the fact because you are too damned stupid to admit you made a mistake.

    Actually Nazi Germany DID have plans to invade Britain and it was called Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sealion). The first part was to secure air supremacy over Britain. This part of the plan failed during the Battle of Britain. Hitler turned his attention and armed forces to the USSR.

    That's his entire post.

  • John||

    I didn't make anything up. It is well known that Hilter wanted to conquer all of Europe. When I said that is a complete lie, I was referring to this quote from the article that 1789 quoted

    Orwell, like other supporters of the war, spoke of the danger of being invaded by Germany, without mentioning the fact that Germany had no interest in invading Britain except to stop the war Britain was pursuing

    That is the total lie was referring to. Maybe you didn't understand that. I don't know what else to tell you other than you seem to know nothing about this topic and are just shitting all over the thread making usless and pedantic points.

  • Rossami||

    In fairness, John, your comment above (at 10.23.18 @ 9:24AM) was more than a little ambiguous. You said "That is just a complete lie" without clarifying whether you were talking about the part of the article that lc1789 quoted or talking about his/her subsequent comment on that quote.

    In general usage, if you are replying to a comment, your own comment is assumed to be a reply to that person and his/her stated opinions. I also initially ready your comment to mean that you disagreed with lc1789's comment, not as an accusation against the snippet that lc1789 quoted. A careful re-reading of your comment hinted at your true intent but the source of RTKIAP's understandable confusion is based on how you chose to structure your original reply to lc1789.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I understood that John meant that the narrative that Germany was not planning on invading Britain was a lie.

    John's comments backed up what I was saying about that narrative being false.

  • JWatts||

    "What the heck is a lie?"

    I think they mean this a lie:

    "without mentioning the fact that Germany had no interest in invading Britain except to stop the war Britain was pursuing."

    I would say it's an unprovable assertion that given Hitler's pattern of invading numerous countries is unlikely.

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    lc1789 did not say those words that John replied to. Here is what he said, in its entirety:

    Actually Nazi Germany DID have plans to invade Britain and it was called Unternehmen Seelöwe (Operation Sealion). The first part was to secure air supremacy over Britain. This part of the plan failed during the Battle of Britain. Hitler turned his attention and armed forces to the USSR.
  • MJBinAL||

    Actually, the United States banking system funded much of this expansion, at least the portion prior to the stock market crash. It is often overlooked how much of the German nation, industrial machine, and military was rebuilt prior to Hitler's rise.

    In fact, the defaults of Germany on those debts are actually what precipitated the collapse of the banking system. The interest rates Germany paid were high, so money flowed from banks across the country on loan to the major NY banks. The NY banks then loaned that money to Germany at high rates.

    When the first whispers of the problem started those local banks tried to get money back from NY .... and failed. Once a number of banks failed the rest of it was unstoppable.

  • newshutz||

    In the long term, I agree, but war with England was not part of Hitler's grand plan. He viewed it as a mostly Aryan nation.

    His plan was to enslave and exploit the Slavic peoples to Germany's benefit.

    I think things would not have worked out for him, and he would have turned to another war to keep power, which would have brought him into conflict with England, again.

  • Mickey Rat||

    If "pacifism" means avoiding fighting under any circumstances, it inevitably means submitting to groups which have no such scruples. Groups that are least likely to avoid conflict are also the least likely to govern in a way that respects civil liberties.

    Stopping the war in 1942 would have saved some lives but it would have also condemned millions to death under the totalitarian German or Soviet regimes. The anarchists were wrong.

  • John||

    And it would have just delayed the war with the totalitarians. It wouldn't have saved any lives and likely would have cost more.

  • Mickey Rat||

    It is amazing what short shrift is given to the consequences of Britain and the USA dropping out of the European Theater in '42. It would mean the Nazis win and their exterminations of the unternensch continue apace or the Soviets win and France and the rest of western Europe are reduced to Soviet satellites in a supersized version of the Warsaw Pact

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Remember: Most of the conquered nations of Europe had collaborators that worked with Nazi Germany to control the defeated nation. Germany used a system of small garrisons and Nazi Party administrators to have overall control but local police and Socialist militias actually kept the populace in line.

  • John||

    With the troops used to defend Western Europe and engaged in Africa and the Med made available, Germany would have defeated Russia in 1942 at the latest and been able to enslave and murder everything between the Urals and the Atlantic.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Even with multiple German divisions spread around Europe, the Nazis made it to the gates of Moscow.

    Stalin was so terrified that his train was waiting for him to board it and depart East.

    The Nazis were that close.

    Once the German paused to regroup and due to winter weather and Stalin was fairly certain that Japan would honor their non-aggression pact, numerous Russian Siberian divisions were shifted to the Moscow front. These fresh troops pushed the Nazis back from Moscow.

  • zazoo||

    Invasion of the USSR by 1942.

    You've taken 2000 miles of their territory.
    You've killed millions of their people.

    But all you have accomplished is that now you've made them mad.

  • John I||

    Exactly. Without Britain in the war as the lone democracy (which eventually allowed the US to have a staging point for D-Day) Europe would have been guaranteed decades of authoritarian rule by someone or other.

    Britain standing alone until the US entered the war saved democracy in Western Europe and is the only reason there weren't Nazi gas chambers running well into the 1950s

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Technically, the USA would have had the atomic bomb in 1945 as we historically did. These could have been used on Germany first instead of Japan.

    The outcome would been the same, its just a matter of differences to an alternative history.

  • JWatts||

    "It is amazing what short shrift is given to the consequences of Britain and the USA dropping out of the European Theater in '42. ... or the Soviets win "

    I think the original contention is that the UK should have dropped out after France surrendered. Which would have meant no US entrance into either Europe or Africa. And almost certainly no massive arms shipments to Russia. There's no chance with those conditions that the Soviets could win.

    The Soviets managed to barely beat 2/3rds of the German army and less than half of it's air force with a constant stream of material from the West.

    And the outcome was very close. It just seems virtually certain that Germany would have captured Moscow if most of the men and material from the Western front had been freed up in June of 1940. At the very least, it would have allowed the Germans to start the invasion of Russia in May as they had originally planned instead of June. With significantly more resources.

  • Mickey Rat||

    I was saying '42 because that was the argument between Comfort and Orwell occurred and Britain dropping out after the fall of France was already a counterfactual.

    I am not sure the Soviets are inevitably defeated if they are fighting Germany alone, but no matter which one wins in that circumstance, it is a bad ending.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Der Fuehrer couldn't just stand by and "let" Jewish selfishness make the world unsafe for blonde, Aryan altruism as preached in the Sermon on the Mount, could he?

  • lap83||

    Less intellectually volatile than Orwell, he maintained essentially the same anarcho-pacifist outlook for the rest of his life.

    What you call "intellectually volatile" was one of Orwell's redeeming features despite being a Democratic Socialist. It's the ability to adjust your position based on one's observations of reality, something Reason writers increasingly seem unable to do...especially when it comes to foreign affairs.

    Do you not fucking realize that someone like Comfort never in a million years would write something like 1984 or Animal Farm? Because given a choice between his principles and speaking out against evil people who want to take over the world he goes and writes a pointless book about sex.

  • John||

    If David Ramsey Steele were a running back and you a linebacker, your post would have leveled him so completely, it would get you kicked out of the game in today's NFL. Bravo.

  • Dan S.||

    The Joy of Sex may have been a popular book, but that hardly made its author "the most famous man in the world". Not for a few years, not for any time at all.

  • John||

    yeah, I am going to go out on a limb here and say perhaps Muhammad Ali, Richard Nixon, the four former Beatles, Joe Namath, George Best, and a whole lot of other people were a lot more famous than this clown was in 1972

  • zazoo||

    Not only were they all more famous but they were probably all enjoying more sex too. With the possible exception of Nixon.

  • NashTiger||

    Not even as famous as Masters and Johnson, or Betty frickin Friedan

  • Radioactive||

    Nobody ever fricked Betty, the original 3 bagger...

  • Onemom26||

    Small question: who on earth is this "Laursen" that's intermittently mentioned? This reads like a book review missing the citation.

  • ecian||

    Thank you. This completely took me out of the article and I came to the comments to see almost no one commenting on the source of my confusion.

  • John I||

    "Orwell and the anarchists mostly talked past each other. Orwell argued that if you were a pacifist, you were objectively "pro-fascist.""

    If you were a pacifist during World War II, you were being objectively pro-fascist, or at least pro-totalitarian. Orwell's point, if you actually read his articles, was that pacifists and people of similar beliefs could not possibly undercut the war effort of totalitarian states because if you spoke out against the totalitarians they'd just kill you. As a result, pacifism, rather than being a neutral anti-war ideology, served to undercut morale in the democratic countries and aid the war aims of totalitarianism.

  • John I||

    "There is certainly something in the suggestion that if you oppose your own government when it is in conflict with x, then you must be to some extent objectively helping x. But to put that fact into perspective, this was a war of choice for Britain. Britain declared war on Germany and continued the war after France capitulated. Britain rejected all of Hitler's offers to negotiate a peace. A negotiated peace would have saved millions of lives. Orwell, like other supporters of the war, spoke of the danger of being invaded by Germany, without mentioning the fact that Germany had no interest in invading Britain except to stop the war Britain was pursuing."

    LMAO what is this shit? "A negotiated peace would have saved millions of lives?" No, it would have let Hitler go on committing genocide, a plan which would have expanded to include the ethnic cleansing of most of Eastern Europe. Then Britain would not have been a staging point for the invasion of Europe which forced Hitler into a two front war. How long Hitler could have maintained power is an open question, but if Britain had thrown in the towel the Third Reich would have lasted quite a bit longer than it did.

    Anyone who was a pacifist during World War II can go fuck themselves

  • John||

    Anyone who was a pacifist during World War II can go fuck themselves

    Exactly.

  • MJBinAL||

    Or let us fuck them with a posthole augar.

  • General_Tso||

    The author of this crap might want to crack open a history book or two.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    +1

  • NashTiger||

    It's embarrassing

  • MJBinAL||

    Is there anything about this article that makes it's quality stand out from the majority of the articles here?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Yes, it does appear to be a book review.

    Here's the book: The Duty to Stand Aside: Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Wartime Quarrel of George Orwell and Alex Comfort

    Eric Laursen is the author of that book.

  • Radioactive||

    where do they dig these things up? is there a crappy historical analysis shelf at the B&N

  • JWatts||

    Is the whole point of this article to make anarchists and pacifists look like idiots? Because that is the take away.

  • MikeP2||

    Not sure anyone needed a whole article to make anarchists and pacifists look like idiots.

  • Radioactive||

    or the clowns that write about them...

  • Ron||

    without mentioning the fact that Germany had no interest in invading Britain except to stop the war Britain was pursuing"

    Just like Hitler had no interest in Russia. Its a well know fact he intended to rule the world but lets ignore that fact

  • Sevo||

    "Just like Hitler had no interest in Russia. Its a well know fact he intended to rule the world but lets ignore that fact"

    I see I'm late.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Maybe if Germany had won WWI then we could avoided both WWII and the USSR and PRC.

  • prolefeed||

    Surprised no one commented on this wonderful line:

    "which makes a good case that politics is an artificial game preserve for the kinds of anti-social predators whom it is a function of normal social life to curb and discourage"

  • bvandyke||

    "Under the cover of fighting fascism, Britain and the U.S. were sometimes equaling or even outdoing fascist atrocities, especially with their campaign of "area bombing"—the extermination bombing of working-class communities. "

    I have a huge issue with this. Area bombing was bad but no where near as bad as death camps with ovens. Really?

    From the slant of this article I take it that the Mr. Steele really doesn't like the US (or the West at all for that matter).

    England and the U.S. should have stayed out of WWII. Really? Anybody with a little thinking power can see where that would have lead to. 0% of the Jewish population in Europe left (among others). England overran once Hitler recovered from overrunning Russia and the rest of Europe. WWII was bad, really bad, but the outcome Mr. Steele seems to wish for would have been orders of magnitude worse.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    'Area bombing' was partly the result of very bad bomb targeting and German counterattack dispursing the bomber formations. Bomb accuracy from 35,000 feet in WWII was somewhere around 20%.

    It would take over 100 USAAF bombers to get a few bombs within 1000 ft of a target.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Anarchists and other antiwar leftists often said that in the event of a German invasion they would support armed resistance against the Nazis but they would not support the Churchill government's war against Germany.

    How many padlocks you gonna put on that barn door now that the horse is gone?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    He threw in the additional claim that pacifists had a psychological tendency to become sympathetic to fascism. Orwell therefore called pacifists "fascifists," a term he liked to pretend he was quoting as a phrase already in currency, though it appears to have been a piece of terminology he had personally coined.

    If I stand idly by watching someone get beaten and raped, it doesn't mean I'm a rapist and violent, but it might make me an asshole.

  • John||

    Like I said above; if your moral principles require you to stand idly by while the greater part of the world is murdered and enslaved, maybe your principles are not so moral.

  • MJBinAL||

    ^well said^

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Under the cover of fighting fascism, Britain and the U.S. were sometimes equaling or even outdoing fascist atrocities, especially with their campaign of "area bombing"—the extermination bombing of working-class communities.

    I'm assuming we're singling out examples such as the firebombing of Tokyo, and/or the bombing of Dresden (or any other targets of minimal strategic significance).

    However, the lion's share of allied bombing was targeted at factories and during that time, factory workers lived next to or very near the factories. Given the lack of precision in strategic bombing of the time, it wouldn't be fair to classify this as "bombing working-class communities" as if they were the primary target.

  • Radioactive||

    gotta stop the production of glassware & geishas at all cost

  • mtrueman||

    "Given the lack of precision in strategic bombing of the time, it wouldn't be fair to classify this as bombing working-class communities" as if they were the primary target."

    Actually working class residents were a primary target. The British called it 'dehousing' and it was thought, mistakenly as it happens, to be the most effective way to demoralize a population. If accurate targetting was a priority, riskier day-light raids would have been chosen, which I believe the Americans were more likely to use. The British relied on less accurate residence destroying raids. Check Dresden for details.

  • Sevo||

    "Actually working class residents were a primary target. The British called it 'dehousing' and it was thought, mistakenly as it happens, to be the most effective way to demoralize a population. If accurate targetting was a priority, riskier day-light raids would have been chosen, which I believe the Americans were more likely to use. The British relied on less accurate residence destroying raids. Check Dresden for details."

    Now I know why you provide no citations; it's because you consistently have your head up your ass.
    "Bomber" Harris thought that was true; it was shared by few others. The Brits 'area bombed' because the only way to keep from losing all their aircraft was to bomb at night, and any precision was out of the question.
    As l 1789 mentions above, the US did so, since precision bombing even in daylight was not really possible.
    It was only in Japan where the dispersed small businesses could be so 'targeted' that it was by design.

  • mtrueman||

    "It was only in Japan where the dispersed small businesses could be so 'targeted' that it was by design."

    The primary target for the bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9 1945 was the Catholic Cathedral at Urakami, wasn't it?

  • Sevo||

    "The primary target for the bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9 1945 was the Catholic Cathedral at Urakami, wasn't it?"

    As mentioned just above, you have your head up your ass.
    First, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 'precision bombing' missions, with (yes) very specific aiming points:
    To pick the first book as hand, "Japan 1945 - From Operation Downfall to Hiroshima and Nagasaki", pg 76:
    "2 Bockscar drops Fat Man at 1158hrs from an altitude of 28,000ft. The aim point is the Mitsubishi Arm Works".
    Or Frank's "Downfall". Or Tillman's "Whirlwind". All three of those, plus "World at Arms" (Weinberg), "Making of the Atomic Bomb" (Rhodes) and at least a half dozen other books point to the dispersal of the manufacturing facilities as justification for area bombing, all also mentioning the inability of accurate high-altitude bombing.
    You know, "books" instead of Sunday suppliments and NPR specials.

  • mtrueman||

    "First, both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 'precision bombing' missions, with (yes) very specific aiming points:"

    Maybe so, the ground zeros are not all that far from the primary targets. My point is that Americans took efforts to bomb precisely in Germany to avoid civilian casualties, and at no small risk to themselves, much to their credit. In Japan, avoiding civilian casualties was not a priority.

  • Barry Gold||

    Most of what I see in Reason seems to make a lot of sense. But Steele's piece is just plain nonsense.

    On what basis does anybody believe that Hitler would have left Britain alone if Britain had signed Ribbentrop's peace treaty? Remember the Sudetenland? Hitler said this "was his last territorial claim in Europe."

    Here's the timeline:
    Sept. 1938: Hitler takes the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia
    March 1939: Czechoslovakia is completely dismemebered, split between Hitler and his allies
    Sept. 1939: Hitler invades Poland
    May 1940: Germany attacks the Los Countries and France.

    On what basis does Steele claim that Hitler would have tolerated a free, Democratic Britain only 20 miles across the Strait of Dover?

    "War of choice": Arrant nonsense!

  • Hank Phillips||

    Good observation. Germany and England also competed in the selling of addictive narcotics to primitive Chinese and Africans. Indian opium went to Scotland for acetylization while Balkan opium passed through Austrian and German chemical plants before being refined into "cures" for alcoholism and the opium habit. It is unfriendly to point these things out, but England, France and Germany dealt in narcotics back when little was known about alternative drugs. Big heroin in 1914 and 1939 were as entrenched as Big Tobacco in the 50s and 60s. WWII was another opium war.

  • mtrueman||

    "On what basis does Steele claim that Hitler would have tolerated a free, Democratic Britain only 20 miles across the Strait of Dover?"

    Why assume Britain would be 'Democratic?' If Britain had elected a pro-fascist government, Hitler wouldn't have invaded. He didn't invade Finland, Spain or Sweden.

  • Sevo||

    "Why assume Britain would be 'Democratic?' If Britain had elected a pro-fascist government, Hitler wouldn't have invaded. He didn't invade Finland, Spain or Sweden."

    As mentioned above, you have your head up your ass.

  • Sevo||

    OK, let's tell you how you have your head up your ass:
    1) Finland: Hitler had enough trouble trying to subdue Leningrad. How do you think he could have gotten to Finland? Row boats across the mouth of the Neva?
    2) Spain: Hitler didn't even bother to occupy Vichy France until the Allies landed in North Africa and by that time, the Wehrmacht was kinda busy at Stalingrad and several other locations in Russia. Do you think he could have gotten Mosley or the Mitford sisters to gather enough divisions from England to get it done?
    3) Sweden: Ah, yes Sweden, whose sympathy for the allies was so strong, they had to be threatened with a post-war boycott before they finally stopped shipping high-quality iron ore and SKF ball bearings to the Nazis. Which they did for direct gold payments (and you can imagine where that came from), and which served to provide the Swedish experiment in socialism with free money for quite a long time, post war. Weinberg spends some time on the issue.
    Now, do you have any cites for your claims?

  • mtrueman||

    Are you saying that Hitler was determined to invade England no matter how much the English were willing to appease him, including, say, sending regiments of volunteers to fight on the eastern front as France and others did? I think rather, it's Russia who Hitler was always determined to invade and conquer. It says as much in the book Mein Kampf.

  • zazoo||

    Plus Spain already had a fascist government so why bother there?

    I seem to also recall Hitler asking Franco to allow the passage of German troops to capture Gibraltar and Franco said nope.

    And Hitler said okay, thanks. Just asking.

    Or something like that.

  • zazoo||

    It's not hard to make a case that the few countries in Europe that succeeded in remaining neutral in WW2 were deep in hock with Germany in one way or another.

    Finland. An ally of necessity with Germany having had to resist a Russian invasion.

    Sweden. Germany's source of iron ore. Don't go to war without it folks.

    Spain. Another fascist dictatorship. Germany didn't invade them like they didn't invade Italy. Except of course in the end they did end up invading Italy. Bet Franco was feeling pretty smart about that time.

    Switzerland. Gotta stash your ill-gotten gains somewhere and all that wealth isn't built on cuckoo clocks.

  • markm23||

    Hitler didn't originally plan on invading Britain. He engaged in wishful thinking, that once France was knocked out of the picture, the British would make peace, and they'd get along just fine. After all, the English were "Aryans" and of German descent - and their leaders were pusillanimous (except Churchill, but he was banished to the back benches for his unseemly bloodthirstiness).

    Operation Sea Lion was not planned until France surrendered and Britain promoted Churchill and fought on, with air raids and a blockade of Europe's sea ports. One result of this was that Hitler missed the best chance for an invasion - right after the British army left their weapons on the beach at Dunkirk and scrambled onto small boats to go home. They were drilling with wooden rifles and begging Americans to donate their hunting rifles for a few months. 50,000 German troops thrown across the channel at night could have conquered England at that point, and even if another 50,000 or 100,000 had been drowned by the Royal Navy, it would have been a bargain - but the Germans lacked a plan and had not collected the boats needed.

  • Hank Phillips||

    God's Own Prohibitionists trot out the same reproach as Orwell: any who fail to support Republican candidates bound to shoot children over plant leaves, arrest doctors for enabling birth control AND keep electric power safe and legal are colluding with Democrat sellouts to communism. Only Libertarians notice that looter predictions of doom and gloom are promptly forgotten by their brainwashees even before the electoral votes are counted. The subtle conditioning Aldous Huxley, the pacifist, observed while living in Fascist Italy, however, is what moves the mindless in modern times.

  • Sevo||

    "Orwell, like other supporters of the war, spoke of the danger of being invaded by Germany, without mentioning the fact that Germany had no interest in invading Britain except to stop the war Britain was pursuing."

    Uh, I'd sure like to see a cite for that last claim; it is opposed by every source I've read. Operation Sealion was not an ad-hoc operation, and according to everything I've read, was merely to be delayed until after the USSR was beaten.
    Agreed with your later comment that it was extremely unlikely to succeed, but that did not stop Hitler in various other actions

  • mtrueman||

    " I'd sure like to see a cite for that last claim"

    Try Mein Kampf, Hitler's bestselling autobiography. The invasion of Russia is discussed. The invasion of Britain is not.

  • MikeP2||

    Mein kampf was written in 1925, you blithering moron.

  • mtrueman||

    "Mein kampf was written in 1925, you blithering moron."

    I don't think Hitler would have invaded England if they were sufficiently submissive, ie they had ditched Churchill for someone more interested in peace.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman|10.23.18 @ 7:55PM|#
    "Try Mein Kampf, Hitler's bestselling autobiography. The invasion of Russia is discussed. The invasion of Britain is not."

    As mentioned above; you have your head up your ass.

  • David1234||

    "Britain rejected all of Hitler's offers to negotiate a peace. A negotiated peace would have saved millions of lives." Really?

    I don't understand the blank assumption that Hilter _must_ have been telling the truth about not ever wanting war with England. It seems willfully oblivious. Hadn't this man demonstrated himself to be a massive liar about his military plans and about whether the latest appeasement would keep him happy, etc? Hasn't the chronic public lying of the Nazi regime--with Hitler gloating again and again about how easily he was able to dupe and bully other countries--been exposed at great length in Shirer's heavily document Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and many other volumes? It's possible that one more act of appeasement would have done the trick, so that Hitler would have gobbled up X countries and no more, ever; but come on. You can only go by the evidence. At what point do you say, "We can't really rely on what this guy tells us, given his actual actions"? Of course, there would not have been any invasion of Czechoslovakia or Poland if Britain and France had acted much earlier against Hitler's aggression. Would Steele have also objected to their stopping Hitler as soon as he began making his intentions plain?

  • mtrueman||

    "Would Steele have also objected to their stopping Hitler as soon as he began making his intentions plain?"

    When would that be? The absorption of Austria was a fairly bloodless affair. Not really something that nations like Britain or France could get involved in. Hitler was nicknamed General Bloodless by the German people. I'd say it wasn't clear to most where Hitler was headed in international affairs. What was clear by this time was his willingness to use violence against the Jews, though this aggression didn't really interest the British or French, either.

  • WaldemarZukowski||

    Orwell literally predicted what is happening currently...

  • mikael||

    This article severly misrepresents the view and characteristics of both past and current anarchism. In a participatory, decentralized planned economy, we would avoid both the achilles heel of both market capitalism and left-statist authoritarianism. Primitivists might advocate "primitive technology and low living standards", and while some anarchists remained pacifists through the war, we can count many examples like that of the anarchist tank battalion of Leclerc's 9th, which were the first soldiers to start to clear and liberate the city of Paris.

    The book, however, seems like a wortwhile and stimulating read, like the rest of this review.

  • Nuwanda||

    In a participatory, decentralized planned economy, we would avoid both the achilles heel of both market capitalism and left-statist authoritarianism.

    More dumbfuckery from anarchists. Euphemistic bullshit masquerading as profundity. Avoiding left-statist authoritarianism and having a planned economy is a contradiction in terms. Planned = directed = authority.

  • markm23||

    Left-anarchists basically come in two types. One are idealists totally disconnected from reality; their proposals are so unrealistic that debating with them is like debating whether a schizophrenic is actually Jesus. The other are idealists who imagine that by naming government something else, it ceases to be government. Example: the Guild Syndicalists in _The Dispossessed_, who are a socialist dictatorship while pretending to be a workers' union.

  • markm23||

    Right-anarchists also come in two types: survivalists who are eagerly awaiting the breakdown of civilation so they let out their inner barbarian without worrying about the law or morality, and Libertarians. Of the four groups, only libertarians have any workable ideas...

  • Nuwanda||

    These two features of their imagined anarcho-socialism cannot co-exist in reality.

    Oh, that's rich. Any flavor of anarchism has an equal claim on anything it likes else it ceases to be anarchism. Anarcho-capitalism is as much a contradiction in terms as is Anarcho-Socialism.

  • NF||

    Complete nonsense. Where did you do your research, Mein Kampf?

  • markm23||

    Hitler did not conceive the Final Solution until the war started and it wasn't possible to run the Jews out of a blockaded Europe. So if he couldn't make them leave, he'd exterminate them. The Brits could have saved that 6 million lives (and stoked their economy, no doubt) by making peace and allowing 12 million Jews to immigrate. Never mind that the Brits (and Americans) had already turned back huge numbers of refugees.

    However, the concentration camps already existed, and there were over 10 million candidates for them other than Jews - "criminal scum" such as the Rom, Communists, liberals, the disabled, and sometimes actual criminals. Other nations had good enough reasons for excluding most of these. The extermination might been slower if Britain made peace, but it still would have proceeded, and unlike the Jews, they'd have never run out of target groups such as political opponents and the disabled. But most of the deaths were outside of the camps, in both the real world and this hypothetical. Hitler's plans included taking land and making over 100 million Slavic "inferior races" disappear somehow. Since there's no way the rest of the world would have accepted so many Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian peasants, that meant those that weren't shot for resisting would be murdered by starvation and exposure.

  • AndrewLale||

    'A negotiated peace would have saved millions of lives.' This is an impossible statement to prove, because there is no possibility of rerunning history. But to use it as an argument is fallacious. The Soviet Union HAD A NEGOTIATED PEACE with Hitler that lasted until June 1941. So the best we can say is that the aforementioned statement is almost certainly false.

  • jagjr||

    well put. a negotiated peace with Britain (and keeping the US out of the war) was in their interest in the same way as the 'peace' with Stalin. preparation time, and strategic surprise.

  • AndrewLale||

    Calling the war against Hitler 'a war of choice' is nonsense on stilts.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Orwell argued that if you were a pacifist, you were objectively "pro-fascist."


    More broadly, people who stay "neutral" in some conflict (whatever it is) are always tacitly supporting the status quo (whatever it is). It only helps the oppressors, never the oppressed.

  • jagjr||

    " Orwell, like other supporters of the war, spoke of the danger of being invaded by Germany, without mentioning the fact that Germany had no interest in invading Britain except to stop the war Britain was pursuing."

    interestingly selective statement. Germany had no interest in invading Britain because time was on their side as long as they could continue the Battle of Britain. they were perfectly happy to consolidate their gains, and allow their industry to catch up to their state-of-the-art developments, as long as they could do that without being constantly harassed. in time, they would have continued the attack across the Channel and around the world, and likely succeeded because their technology was the best at the time.

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