Liberalism and Marxism in the work of George Orwell
Orwell often treats liberal and radical figures sympathetically and explores his own political position through them. He discriminates between types of liberalism and strongly prefers nineteenth-century liberalism and radicalism to contemporary liberalism. His patriotism, and its distinction from nationalism, are influenced by G.K. Chesterton and by the 'Little England' section of the late nineteenth-century Liberal Party. Many of Orwell's other values, freedom of expression, privacy, and individual autonomy, are part of liberalism. He attacks Marxist forms of socialism which threaten liberal values, and becomes committed to socialism where it promises to protect or fulfil them, although such a form of socialism remains only a possibility. He is best described as a liberal committed to socialism. Orwell was dissatisfied with the exclusion of historical considerations from most contemporary literary criticism. Marxism was an exception to this. He is influenced by Marxist criticism in his treatment of proletarian literature, and in his critical method of analysing a writer's work in terms of its political tendency and the writer's position in society. His knowledge of passages of Marx's work itself can be traced to The Adelphi. Orwell argues that the writer must be a liberal, and that prose literature is associated with liberalism, yet also admits the Marxist case that liberalism is a product of capitalism. He then doubts whether the culture of liberalism will continue to exist if capitalism is replaced by socialism, and finds it definitely incompatible with the growth of totalitarianism. An uneasy resolution of these dilemmas is reached in the distinction between a man as a writer and as a citizen, the preservation of the writer's liberal mind in a separate compartment from his activity as a man in an increasingly non-liberal society. The witness-narrator of Orwell's reportage of the 1930s can be compared to the autonomous self preferred by liberalism. These works were not directly influenced by the contemporary documentary movement. Orwell's tendency to appeal to common sense and to argue from observation and experience can be connected with liberalism, as can his view of language as an instrument, and the validation of personal identity by sensation and memory in his work. The distance of the observing subject of his reportage from the observed person can disrupt attempts at empathy and run counter to his expressed socialism. A sequence of composition is established for the essays in Inside the Whale.