Orwell's silence tells its tale

It was depressingly predictable that Scott Lucas's superb article on George Orwell (The Back Half, 29 May) should have provoked criticism from the old Tory's admirers (Letters, 5 June). If Edward Pearce tries reading the bizarre manifesto The Lion and the Unicorn, he will discover that, far from "a desire to be rid of all social class", Orwell believed that class distinctions were charmingly "English".

Pearce may well be right that Hungarian and Czechoslovak leftwingers resorted to unscrupulous tactics, such as packing meetings; but he should remember what else was going on at the time. In 1948, the CIA and the Mafia conspired to rig Italy's general election against the communists. Britain, meanwhile, was engaged in murdering hundreds of thousands of Greeks in its support for the far-right monarchists' civil war against the communists and socialists who had resisted fascism. US and British intelligence agencies were arming and equipping the Ukrainian division of the SS to carry on its war against the Soviet Union. On these and a thousand similar atrocities, Orwell was silent. His was the stance not of the "anti-totalitarian socialist", but of the dedicated Cold Warrior.

Ed Griffiths

Thanks to Edward Pearce and Martin Cook (Letters, 5 June) for making my point by replicating Orwell's strategy of labelling his enemies. Apart from an aversion to Blair's "Labour Lite", I never stated my own views - I could be a libertarian, an anarchist, even a Liberal Democrat. Yet, because I question Orwell's "socialism", I am transformed into an admirer of or "relaxed" apologist for the Soviet Union.

It's a nice tactic because it means that Pearce and Cook don't have to confront the substance of the article. What of Orwell's putting Englishness above socialism in the development of his views? What of the paucity of a "positive" vision after 1942? And what about a vehemence, throughout his life, not just towards communists, but towards many others on the left who were non-communist but didn't meet his personal test of "decency"?

Soviet communism was a nasty, oppressive system under Stalin. But, of those in Orwell's notebook, who was a communist in Moscow's pocket? Where was the imminent threat of subversion in Britain?

It is possible to be an anti-communist without covertly passing to the state a list of the "suspect" for being pacifist, anarchist, anti-American, etc. It was and is imperative to complement anti-communism with a vision of what socialism means in practice. To do otherwise is to concede the political, economic and social domain to others.

Scott Lucas
University of Birmingham