The bad news, recently unearthed, is that MI5, the British spook agency, was spying on George Orwell for two decades. The author of “1984”, which featured Big Brother, was a target of British intelligence from 1929 to 1950.
The good news is that the Brits were intelligent enough to regard Orwell, as an Associated Press story out of London puts it, “benignly.”
Orwell in England and Albert Camus in France were fierce, uncompromising anti-totalitarians. Neither would have been comfortable entertaining Stalin at tea. George Bernard Shaw, on the other hand, was at ease petting Stalin, but there is no indication in the AP story that he was similarly spied upon.
Britain’s Big Brother, it appears, was captivated by Orwell’s bohemian life style, And on the basis of wrongheaded observations by a lackadaisical snoop, it was supposed that Orwell might be a communist. He did, after all, involve himself in the Spanish Civil War. And his manner of thinking – always outside the box – and dress may have indicated to spies who did not know him a dangerous tendency towards subversion.
To complicate matters further, it recently has been discovered that Orwell closest friend during this period, George Kopp, the commander of the Marxist militia that drew Orwell to Spain, was a double agent who worked both sides of the aisle. Kopp, who had saved Orwell’s life after he was shot in the throat during a fight with Franco’s fascists, reported – mostly for money – to both Britain’s MI5 and the Nazi Vichy regime in France.
To complicate matters even further, Kopp reported to Anthony Blunt at MI5. Blunt was himself a notorious double agent, Stalin’s man in England.
Orwell did not live in uninteresting times. Pulled here and there by various loyalties, Orwell dedicated himself uncompromisingly to the truth and, whipped on all sides by conflicting ideologies, he never betrayed it.