Seventy years after his death, George Orwell has been canonised by the literary establishment as a liberal critic of totalitarianism. John Newsinger argues that his life and his work show him to be a harsh a critic of capitalism, and a staunch supporter of the struggles of the “common people”.
George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was first published in 1949 when its author was already seriously ill. He was to die, aged only 46, in January 1950. One consequence of his early death was that his book was successfully hijacked by the right, both in Britain and the United States. It was turned into an ideological weapon in the Cold War, used to defend the interests of British and American imperialism and to undermine the left throughout the world. It is today once again a bestseller, speaking to a new audience in a very different world.