Posts Tagged ‘Big Brother’

A critical review I’ve been reading.


George Orwell is often presented as a critic of any thoroughgoing attempt to change the world. Yet he was a socialist and a fighter against inequality, exploitation and oppression.

Orwell’s major writings – Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four – all address the question of whether it is possible to build a fundamentally different society. Orwell’s politics developed and shifted during a tumultuous period in world history – an era of war and revolution. To understand his works, we have to understand the times in which he wrote them.

Orwell was born into a middle class family of colonial administrators. He attended Eton, Britain’s most exclusive private school, before joining the Indian Imperial Police, stationed in Burma (Myanmar) in the early 1920s. The experience radically shaped his world view. Orwell was exposed to the ugliest and most brutal aspects of the system. “For five years I had been part of an oppressive system, and it had left me with a bad conscience”, he wrote in The road to Wigan Pier in 1936.

“I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed, to be one of them and on their side against their tyrants.”

Orwell returned to Europe in 1925 and worked in low wage jobs, living, observing and recording the conditions and experiences of the working poor. Down and out in Paris and London, written in 1933, is a powerful indictment of the way the rich thrive by pushing the vast majority downwards into poverty, drudgery and unemployment.

Orwell concluded that a socialist party had to be formed in Britain and capitalism overthrown. His socialism was rooted deeply in moral outrage. But he remained uncertain about whether exploited workers had the capacity to understand the need for a new world.

“The first thing that must strike any outside observer is that socialism in its developed form is a theory confined entirely to the middle classes … so far as my experience goes, no genuine working man grasps the larger implications of Socialism”, he wrote in 1936. The question was to be settled for Orwell in the space of year. Not in London or Paris, but in Barcelona in the heat of revolution.

Orwell

On 17 July, the fascist general Francisco Franco launched a military coup to put an end to a seven-year worker and peasant revolt that had challenged the running of Spanish capitalism. The Spanish workers, aware of the fate of their comrades in Germany and Italy, were not prepared to go quietly. Their rallying cry became: “Better Vienna than Berlin!” (In Berlin Nazism had triumphed without a fight, while in Vienna workers armed themselves and resisted fascism to the last.)

Immediately, Franco was halted. His army was defeated in two-thirds of Spain. With the old Republican government crippled and the army in revolt, workers were in power across sections of Spain. Orwell travelled to the country to assist in the fight against fascism. He arrived in Barcelona just after Christmas. The scenes did away with his uncertainties about the capacity of workers to transform the world.

“It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle”, he later wrote. “Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags … Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivised; even the bootblacks had been collectivised and their boxes painted red and black. Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal … I recognised it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.”

Barcelona completely transformed Orwell’s understanding of socialism. At first hand he experienced the political maturity, courage and profound ability of workers to create a new society. Orwell had seen workers’ power and was not about to turn his back on it. He resolved to stay in Spain and join a working class militia.

Orwell’s sojourn in revolutionary militancy in Spain, his commitment to socialism, is an awkward fact for many of his conservative biographers. Robert Colls, for instance, decries Orwell’s role in the revolution as a flight of fancy, condescendingly stating that he “might have spent a little less time responding to his own experiences, and a little more time thinking about the art of the politically possible”.

Initially, Orwell had little understanding of or interest in the political differences between the groups fighting in Spain. But he would soon learn that the fate of the struggle hung on the debates between the working class organisations central to the resistance.

Orwell joined the POUM in early 1937. The organisation identified as Trotskyist and argued that the way to win the war against Franco was to complete the social revolution that was already under way. It would be possible to defeat fascism only if workers were aware that they were fighting for their complete liberation from all forms of exploitation.

The counter-argument came from the Stalinist Communist Party, which argued that the war needed to be won first, and that workers could make a revolution only after fascism had been defeated. Workers needed to keep Spanish capitalists on side, and this meant avoiding anything that would scare them off – such as taking control of production or arming themselves in the streets. The number one imperative for the Stalinists was therefore to put this revolutionary situation to an end as quickly as possible.

When Orwell arrived back in Barcelona from the front in May, the Communist Party was attempting to do just this. As troops tried to take back the worker-controlled Barcelona Telephone Exchange, workers rose up to defend themselves. Tragically, the other workers’ organisations, particularly the anarchist CNT and the POUM, refused to give a lead to the uprising. After days of fighting, workers began to take down the barricades, opening the way for a wave of repression. Orwell escaped across the border to France just as other members of the POUM were being rounded up by Stalinist secret police.

Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky had said that at the beginning of the revolution: “In its specific gravity in the country’s economic life, in its political and cultural level, the Spanish working class stood on the first day of the revolution not below but above the Russian workers at the beginning of 1917.” Now, a great workers’ revolution was crushed under the heel of fascism and Stalinism. A great hope vanished.

Orwell’s impassioned account of the war, Homage to Catalonia, written upon his return to Britain, was an attempt to expose the betrayals of Stalinism – this theme became a particular obsession for him in the years to come. Criticism came at a cost. The British left was dominated by Stalinism, and finding a publisher for the book proved very difficult.

Nonetheless, having witnessed a different kind of society, his determination to see socialism in Britain was intensified. Orwell planned to oppose the Second World War on internationalist grounds, and even made preparations to build an underground organisation to undertake “illegal anti-war activities”.

Based on his experience of the ease with which the Spanish capitalist class and the Republicans opened up to Franco, Orwell was convinced that the working class was the only force that would put up sustained opposition to fascism. He said in 1941:

“The feeling of all true socialists is at bottom reducible to the ‘Trotskyist’ slogan: ‘The war and the revolution are inseparable’. We cannot beat Hitler without passing through revolution, nor consolidate our revolution without beating Hitler.”

When workers’ revolution failed to materialise at the end of the war, Orwell collapsed into despair, writing in 1945:

“I wanted to think that the class distinctions and imperialist exploitation of which I was ashamed would not return.” It was in this period of disillusionment that Orwell produced his two best known works.

Animal Farm is a biting satire of the tragic defeat of the Russian revolution. It’s also a deeply humanistic text, with sympathetic characters: Old Major, the wise pig representing Marx; Snowball representing Leon Trotsky; Boxer, the sturdy farm horse standing in for the exploited Russian working class; and finally Napoleon, the representative of Stalin, who betrays the revolution, reconciles with the old rulers, and raises the slogan

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

The most common interpretation of Animal Farm is that it is a warning against any attempts to change the world. But rather than being a defence of the status quo, Animal Farm contains in allegorical form a damning critique of capitalist exploitation, as Old Major explains:

“We are born, we are given just so much food as will keep the breath in our bodies, and those of us who are capable are forced to work to the last atom of our strength, and the very instant that our usefulness has come to an end we are slaughtered with hideous cruelty.”

Orwell himself answered the question of whether Animal Farm was intended as an anti-revolutionary text in a letter to Dwight Macdonald, a former Trotskyist: “I did mean it to have a wider application … What I was trying to say was…

“You can’t have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship.”

Nonetheless, in some respects Animal Farm falls well short of its stated intentions. Rather than presenting a radical alternative to Stalinist dictatorship, the book offers no substantial analysis of how the revolution was defeated, leaving the reader with no answer to the devastation of Soviet betrayals.

Orwell failed to identify the material limitations faced by Russian workers as they took control of society. Economic crisis gathered as the First World War took its toll. Besieged by commercial blockade and the might of 14 foreign armies, the industrial working class that made the revolution sharply diminished in size and political enthusiasm. The Bolshevik party grew into a massive bureaucratic apparatus, compelled to stand in for a working class too defeated to wield power directly.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is Orwell’s best-known work, and the meaning of the book is fiercely contested. It was intended by Orwell as a critique of bureaucracy and totalitarianism in both Britain and the Soviet Union. Indeed, increasingly it is becoming identified not with Stalinism, but with the surveillance state in the post-9/11 world.

The novel’s protagonist is Winston Smith, who lives under the watch of Big Brother and the thought police in a totalitarian state. What gives the novel its power is Winston’s growing consciousness and rejection of the existing state of affairs, summed up by the note he scrawls in his diary:

“Freedom is the freedom to say two plus two equals four. If that is granted all else follows”.

Orwell gestures to potential resistance, with the refrain: “If there is hope, it lies with the proles.”

Yet as he quietly opens this door, he shuts it quickly. Rather than being a source of resistance, of strength, cunning and self-sacrifice, as the Spanish workers appear in Homage to Catalonia, the working class in Nineteen Eighty-Four appears purely passive. The “proles” are described by Orwell as “like the ant which can see small objects but not large ones” and “people who had never learned to think”.

The sense of futility and abject despair deepens when the resistance movement that Winston dedicates himself to turns out to be a fabrication, an invention of Big Brother. Winston is captured, is tortured into submission and recants his oppositional views, declaring his undying love for Big Brother. His defeat is absolute.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is in many respects the most profound expression of Orwell’s pessimism.

“If you want a picture of the future”, Winston’s torturer tells him at the climax of the book,

“imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever”.

By the time of his death in 1950, Orwell had abandoned any hope for revolutionary change in the near future and had accommodated to the ruling Labour government as a “lesser evil”. But he never abandoned his visceral hatred of inequality and exploitation.

How did Orwell shift from putting his life on the line for socialism in Spain, to later falling into extreme pessimism? There were a number of factors.

First, Orwell’s embrace of socialist politics coincided with a period of horrific defeat for the working class internationally. The Trotskyist opposition was in the late 1920s imprisoned or exiled from the Soviet Union, and the gains of the Russian Revolution were being erased as a brutal dictatorship was consolidated. German and Italian workers were crushed under the heel of fascism, which annihilated their organisations and left their leaders languishing in concentration camps. This period, which the writer Victor Serge referred to as “midnight in the century”, was one of despair for the left internationally.

Second, Cold War hysteria divided politics into the two equally barbarous camps of Soviet totalitarianism and Western capitalism. Orwell’s opposition to Stalinism was fuelled by the conviction that the fraudulent socialism in Russia must be exposed in order to fight for the genuine article. However, lacking faith that the working class movement in both England and Russia provided an alternative to Stalinist dictatorship and British liberal capitalism, he increasingly threw his lot in with the latter as a lesser evil.

Compounding this, the anti-Stalinist left was too small to provide Orwell with any centre of gravity. His fleeting contact with British Trotskyists, who attempted to defend genuine revolutionary Marxism against the dictatorship in Russia, was not enough to negate the demoralisation that followed such crushing defeats. Had a substantial revolutionary organisation existed at the time, Orwell might have found hope through actively involving himself in renewed resistance to capitalism.

Only a couple of years after Orwell’s death, the monolith of Stalinism was cracked open. In 1953, construction workers went on strike in East Berlin and sparked a mass revolt. In 1956 workers across Hungary occupied factories, offices, railways and power stations and ran them themselves.

The revolts kept coming. In 1968 in Czechoslovakia, the brute force of Stalinist tanks was necessary to put down a revolutionary movement demanding change. In 1980, workers in Gdansk, an industrial city in Poland, occupied their factories and issued the following proclamation:

“We are different now, above all because we are united, and therefore stronger. We are different because in 30 years we have learned that their promises are illusions. We are different because we have understood that when we hear the words ‘financial reorganisation’, this means exploitation.”

The movement spread across the country, and it took the government more than a year to wrest power back from the workers.

Had Orwell seen these uprisings and the birth of a new anti-Stalinist left that followed, perhaps he would have been reminded of his earlier experiences. If he had been around to see the Egyptian revolution of 2011, the general strikes against austerity in Greece, the Baltimore rebellion, it’s safe to say he would have been on the side of the downtrodden.

And if Orwell was shocked by the inequality and class distinction that was so clearly observable in 1936 London, what would he say about a world where the richest 69 individuals now own more wealth than the bottom 3.5 billion people?

In 1942, he recalled a moment from Spain when he shook hands and locked eyes with an Italian militiaman, who like him had travelled to fight for the working class:

“The question is very simple. Shall people like that Italian soldier be allowed to live the decent, fully human life which is now technically achievable, or shan’t they? Shall the common man be pushed back into the mud, or shall he not?”

Seventy years later, the question remains a good one. As is Orwell’s answer:

“I myself believe that the common man will win his fight sooner or later, but I want it to be sooner and not later – sometime within the next hundred years, say, and not sometime within the next ten thousand. That was the real issue of the Spanish war, and of the present war, and perhaps of other wars yet to come.”

Shared from: https://redflag.org.au/article/george-orwell’s-socialism

It’s worth noting, Orwell has been co-opted by every capitalist regime on Earth. They point to 1984 as the cautionary tale of what happens if you go totalitarian, claiming that the Orwellian society is modeled on Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. But this general co-option and location of the text within a particular historical narrative is but another example of how the “Ministry of Truth” operates.

1984 seems to be accurately describing all the major regimes contemporary to Orwell, especially Britain and the USA. 

As has been pointed out by many before, 1984 is an anagram of 1948, the year that the book was published, indicating it is not a prediction of a potential future, but a veiled description of an actual present.

1984 has affected me since school, it is a cautionary tale (a blueprint?) against the total state after the warring life under capitalist states, with society swinging from one extreme to the other. It has been a cautionary tale, similar to the ‘Boy in striped Pyjamas.’ about use and abuse of power by any institution.

These institutions, once they gain power, whether they be in the name of capitalism or communism, and the form of a state, a multinational , a church, a media, a bank or anything. Too much power corrupts and total power corrupts totally. All people and all institutions need to be on their guard about the corruption, whether it be group think or just an individual. For me it was a book warning institutions to take care of their whistle blowers as they guard an institution’s health.

History is tainted by the historians of the State

For 75 years, the British state and right-wing commentators and historians like DC Watt have covered up the truth, allowing anti-Communists of every stripe to get away with the lie that the Soviets preferred a pact with Nazi Germany to one with the West.
Some of the most extreme right wingers today even use the pact to hold the Soviet Union jointly responsible for the Second World War.
Now, as the truth emerges thanks to Russian sources, it’s undeniable that it was the British and French ruling classes – as well as the reactionary Polish junta – who didn’t want a united front against facism, hoping they could appease Hitler and turn Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union.
What a catastrophic mistake, which capitalism’s intellectuals have been lying about ever since.

It’s worth noting that Blair/Orwell was criticised as an opportunist and anti-semite who assisted in the blacklisting of communists in post-war Britain.

the-return-of-george-orwell-and-big-brothers-war-on-palestine-ukraine-and-truth

 

wyds_clean.JPG

The other night, I saw George Orwells’s ‘1984’ performed on the London stage. Although crying out for a contemporary interpretation, Orwell’s warning about the future was presented as a period piece: remote, unthreatening, almost reassuring. It was as if Edward Snowden had revealed nothing, Big Brother was not now a digital eavesdropper and Orwell himself had never said, “To be corrupted by totalitarianism, one does not have to live in a totalitarian country.”

Acclaimed by critics, the skilful production was a measure of our cultural and political times. When the lights came up, people were already on their way out. They seemed unmoved, or perhaps other distractions beckoned. “What a mindfuck,” said the young woman, lighting up her phone.

As advanced societies are de-politicised, the changes are both subtle and spectacular. In everyday discourse, political language is turned on its head, as Orwell prophesised in ‘1984’. “Democracy” is now a rhetorical device. Peace is “perpetual war”. “Global” is imperial. The once hopeful concept of “reform” now means regression, even destruction. “Austerity” is the imposition of extreme capitalism on the poor and the gift of socialism for the rich: an ingenious system under which the majority service the debts of the few.

In the arts, hostility to political truth-telling is an article of bourgeois faith. “Picasso’s red period,” says an Observer headline, “and why politics don’t make good art.” Consider this in a newspaper that promoted the bloodbath in Iraq as a liberal crusade. Picasso’s lifelong opposition to fascism is a footnote, just as Orwell’s radicalism has faded from the prize that appropriated his name.

A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then professor of English literature at Manchester University, reckoned that “for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life”. No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron damns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin reveal the moral disaster of capitalism. William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalents today. Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice. Among the insistent voices of consumer-feminism, none echoes Virginia Woolf, who described “the arts of dominating other people… of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital”.

At the National Theatre, a new play, ‘Great Britain’, satirises the phone hacking scandal that has seen journalists tried and convicted, including a former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Described as a “farce with fangs [that] puts the whole incestuous [media] culture in the dock and subjects it to merciless ridicule”, the play’s targets are the “blessedly funny” characters in Britain’s tabloid press. That is well and good, and so familiar. What of the non-tabloid media that regards itself as reputable and credible, yet serves a parallel role as an arm of state and corporate power, as in the promotion of illegal war?

The Leveson inquiry into phone hacking glimpsed this unmentionable. Tony Blair was giving evidence, complaining to His Lordship about the tabloids’ harassment of his wife, when he was interrupted by a voice from the public gallery. David Lawley-Wakelin, a film-maker, demanded Blair’s arrest and prosecution for war crimes. There was a long pause: the shock of truth. Lord Leveson leapt to his feet and ordered the truth-teller thrown out and apologised to the war criminal. Lawley-Wakelin was prosecuted; Blair went free.

Blair’s enduring accomplices are more respectable than the phone hackers. When the BBC arts presenter, Kirsty Wark, interviewed him on the tenth anniversary of his invasion of Iraq, she gifted him a moment he could only dream of; she allowed him to agonise over his “difficult” decision on Iraq rather than call him to account for his epic crime. This evoked the procession of BBC journalists who in 2003 declared that Blair could feel “vindicated”, and the subsequent, “seminal” BBC series, ‘The Blair Years’, for which David Aaronovitch was chosen as the writer, presenter and interviewer. A Murdoch retainer who campaigned for military attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria, Aaronovitch fawned expertly.

Since the invasion of Iraq – the exemplar of an act of unprovoked aggression the Nuremberg prosecutor Robert Jackson called “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” – Blair and his mouthpiece and principal accomplice, Alastair Campbell, have been afforded generous space in the Guardian to rehabilitate their reputations. Described as a Labour Party “star”, Campbell has sought the sympathy of readers for his depression and displayed his interests, though not his current assignment as advisor, with Blair, to the Egyptian military tyranny.

As Iraq is dismembered as a consequence of the Blair/Bush invasion, a Guardian headline declares: “Toppling Saddam was right, but we pulled out too soon”. This ran across a prominent article on 13 June by a former Blair functionary, John McTernan, who also served Iraq’s CIA installed dictator Iyad Allawi. In calling for a repeat invasion of a country his former master helped destroy, he made no reference to the deaths of at least 700,000 people, the flight of four million refugees and sectarian turmoil in a nation once proud of its communal tolerance.

“Blair embodies corruption and war,” wrote the radical Guardian columnist Seumas Milne in a spirited piece on 3 July. This is known in the trade as “balance”. The following day, the paper published a full-page advertisement for an American Stealth bomber. On a menacing image of the bomber were the words: “The F-35. GREAT For Britain”. This other embodiment of “corruption and war” will cost British taxpayers £1.3 billion, its F-model predecessors having slaughtered people across the developing world.

In a village in Afghanistan, inhabited by the poorest of the poor, I filmed Orifa, kneeling at the graves of her husband, Gul Ahmed, a carpet weaver, seven other members of her family, including six children, and two children who were killed in the adjacent house. A “precision” 500-pound bomb fell directly on their small mud, stone and straw house, leaving a crater 50 feet wide. Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer’s, had pride of place in the Guardian’s advertisement.

The former US secretary of state and aspiring president of the United States, Hillary Clinton, was recently on the BBC’s ‘Women’s Hour’, the quintessence of media respectability. The presenter, Jenni Murray, presented Clinton as a beacon of female achievement. She did not remind her listeners about Clinton’s profanity that Afghanistan was invaded to “liberate” women like Orifa. She asked Clinton nothing about her administration’s terror campaign using drones to kill women, men and children. There was no mention of Clinton’s idle threat, while campaigning to be the first female president, to “eliminate” Iran, and nothing about her support for illegal mass surveillance and the pursuit of whistle-blowers.

Murray did ask one finger-to-the-lips question. Had Clinton forgiven Monica Lewinsky for having an affair with husband? “Forgiveness is a choice,” said Clinton, “for me, it was absolutely the right choice.” This recalled the 1990s and the years consumed by the Lewinsky “scandal”. President Bill Clinton was then invading Haiti, and bombing the Balkans, Africa and Iraq. He was also destroying the lives of Iraqi children; Unicef reported the deaths of half a million Iraqi infants under the age of five as a result of an embargo led by the US and Britain.

The children were media unpeople, just as Hillary Clinton’s victims in the invasions she supported and promoted – Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia – are media unpeople. Murray made no reference to them. A photograph of her and her distinguished guest, beaming, appears on the BBC website.

In politics as in journalism and the arts, it seems that dissent once tolerated in the “mainstream” has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground. When I began a career in Britain’s Fleet Street in the 1960s, it was acceptable to critique western power as a rapacious force. Read James Cameron’s celebrated reports of the explosion of the Hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll, the barbaric war in Korea and the American bombing of North Vietnam. Today’s grand illusion is of an information age when, in truth, we live in a media age in which incessant corporate propaganda is insidious, contagious, effective and liberal.

In his 1859 essay ‘On Liberty’, to which modern liberals pay homage, John Stuart Mill wrote: “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end.” The “barbarians” were large sections of humanity of whom “implicit obedience” was required. “It’s a nice and convenient myth that liberals are peacemakers and conservatives the warmongers,” wrote the historian Hywel Williams in 2001, “but the imperialism of the liberal way may be more dangerous because of its open-ended nature: its conviction that it represents a superior form of life.” He had in mind a speech by Blair in which the then prime minister promised to “reorder the world around us” according to his “moral values”.

Richard Falk, the respected authority on international law and the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine, once described a “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence”. It is “so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable”.

Tenure and patronage reward the guardians. On BBC Radio 4, Razia Iqbal interviewed Toni Morrison, the African-American Nobel Laureate. Morrison wondered why people were “so angry” with Barack Obama, who was “cool” and wished to build a “strong economy and health care”. Morrison was proud to have talked on the phone with her hero, who had read one of her books and invited her to his inauguration.

Neither she nor her interviewer mentioned Obama’s seven wars, including his terror campaign by drone, in which whole families, their rescuers and mourners have been murdered. What seemed to matter was that a “finely spoken” man of colour had risen to the commanding heights of power. In ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, Frantz Fanon wrote that the “historic mission” of the colonised was to serve as a “transmission line” to those who ruled and oppressed. In the modern era, the employment of ethnic difference in western power and propaganda systems is now seen as essential. Obama epitomises this, though the cabinet of George W. Bush – his warmongering clique – was the most multiracial in presidential history.

As the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the jihadists of ISIS, Obama said, “The American people made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better destiny.” How “cool” is that lie? How “finely spoken” was Obama’s speech at the West Point military academy on 28 May. Delivering his “state of the world” address at the graduation ceremony of those who “will take American leadership” across the world, Obama said, “The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it. International opinion matters, but America will never ask permission…”

In repudiating international law and the rights of independent nations, the American president claims a divinity based on the might of his “indispensable nation”. It is a familiar message of imperial impunity, though always bracing to hear. Evoking the rise of fascism in the 1930s, Obama said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being.” Historian Norman Pollack wrote: “For goose-steppers, substitute the seemingly more innocuous militarisation of the total culture. And for the bombastic leader, we have the reformer manqué, blithely at work, planning and executing assassination, smiling all the while.”

In February, the US mounted one of its “colour” coups against the elected government in Ukraine, exploiting genuine protests against corruption in Kiev. Obama’s assistant secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, personally selected the leader of an “interim government”. She nicknamed him “Yats”. Vice President Joe Biden came to Kiev, as did CIA Director John Brennan. The shock troops of their putsch were Ukrainian fascists.

For the first time since 1945, a neo-Nazi, openly anti-Semitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital. No Western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism in the borderland through which Hitler’s invading Nazis took millions of Russian lives. They were supported by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), responsible for the massacre of Jews and Russians they called “vermin”. The UPA is the historical inspiration of the present-day Svoboda Party and its fellow-travelling Right Sector. Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok has called for a purge of the “Moscow-Jewish mafia” and “other scum”, including gays, feminists and those on the political left.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato Enlargement Project. Reneging on a promise made to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand “one inch to the east”, Nato has, in effect, militarily occupied eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucasus, Nato’s expansion is the biggest military build-up since the Second World War.

A Nato Membership Action Plan is Washington’s gift to the coup-regime in Kiev. In August, “Operation Rapid Trident” will put American and British troops on Ukraine’s Russian border and “Sea Breeze” will send US warships within sight of Russian ports. Imagine the response if these acts of provocation, or intimidation, were carried out on America’s borders.

In reclaiming Crimea – which Nikita Kruschev illegally detached from Russia in 1954 – the Russians defended themselves as they have done for almost a century. More than 90 per cent of the population of Crimea voted to return the territory to Russia. Crimea is the home of the Black Sea Fleet and its loss would mean life or death for the Russian Navy and a prize for Nato. Confounding the war parties in Washington and Kiev, Vladimir Putin withdrew troops from the Ukrainian border and urged ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine to abandon separatism.

In Orwellian fashion, this has been inverted in the west to the “Russian threat”. Hillary Clinton likened Putin to Hitler. Without irony, right-wing German commentators said as much. In the media, the Ukrainian neo-Nazis are sanitised as “nationalists” or “ultra nationalists”. What they fear is that Putin is skilfully seeking a diplomatic solution, and may succeed. On 27 June, responding to Putin’s latest accommodation – his request to the Russian Parliament to rescind legislation that gave him the power to intervene on behalf of Ukraine’s ethnic Russians – Secretary of State John Kerry issued another of his ultimatums. Russia must “act within the next few hours, literally” to end the revolt in eastern Ukraine. Notwithstanding that Kerry is widely recognised as a buffoon, the serious purpose of these “warnings” is to confer pariah status on Russia and suppress news of the Kiev regime’s war on its own people.

A third of the population of Ukraine are Russian-speaking and bilingual. They have long sought a democratic federation that reflects Ukraine’s ethnic diversity and is both autonomous and independent of Moscow. Most are neither “separatists” nor “rebels” but citizens who want to live securely in their homeland. Separatism is a reaction to the Kiev junta’s attacks on them, causing as many as 110,000 (UN estimate) to flee across the border into Russia. Typically, they are traumatised women and children.

Like Iraq’s embargoed infants, and Afghanistan’s “liberated” women and girls, terrorised by the CIA’s warlords, these ethnic people of Ukraine are media unpeople in the west, their suffering and the atrocities committed against them minimised, or suppressed. No sense of the scale of the regime’s assault is reported in the mainstream western media. This is not unprecedented. Reading again Phillip Knightley’s masterly ‘The First Casualty: the war correspondent as hero, propagandist and mythmaker’, I renewed my admiration for the Manchester Guardian’s Morgan Philips Price, the only western reporter to remain in Russia during the 1917 revolution and report the truth of a disastrous invasion by the western allies. Fair-minded and courageous, Philips Price alone disturbed what Knightley calls an anti-Russian “dark silence” in the west.

On 2 May, in Odessa, 41 ethnic Russians were burned alive in the trade union headquarters with police standing by. There is horrifying video evidence. The Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh hailed the massacre as “another bright day in our national history”. In the American and British media, this was reported as a “murky tragedy” resulting from “clashes” between “nationalists” (neo-Nazis) and “separatists” (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine). The New York Times buried it, having dismissed as Russian propaganda warnings about the fascist and anti-Semitic policies of Washington’s new clients. The Wall Street Journal damned the victims – “Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says”. Obama congratulated the junta for its “restraint”.

On 28 June, the Guardian devoted most of a page to declarations by the Kiev regime’s “president”, the oligarch Petro Poroshenko. Again, Orwell’s rule of inversion applied. There was no putsch; no war against Ukraine’s minority; the Russians were to blame for everything. “We want to modernise my country,” said Poroshenko. “We want to introduce freedom, democracy and European values. Somebody doesn’t like that. Somebody doesn’t like us for that.”

According to his report, the Guardian’s reporter, Luke Harding, did not challenge these assertions, or mention the Odessa atrocity, the regime’s air and artillery attacks on residential areas, the killing and kidnapping of journalists, the firebombing of an opposition newspaper and his threat to “free Ukraine from dirt and parasites”. The enemy are “rebels”, “militants”, “insurgents”, “terrorists” and stooges of the Kremlin. Summon from history the ghosts of Vietnam, Chile, East Timor, southern Africa, Iraq; note the same tags. Palestine is the lodestone of this unchanging deceit. On 11 July, following the latest Israeli, American equipped slaughter in Gaza – 120 people including six children in one family – an Israeli general writes in the Guardian under the headline, “A necessary show of force”.

In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl and asked her about her films that glorified the Nazis. Using revolutionary camera and lighting techniques, she produced a documentary form that mesmerised Germans; it was her ‘Triumph of the Will’ that reputedly cast Hitler’s spell. I asked her about propaganda in societies that imagined themselves superior. She replied that the “messages” in her films were dependent not on “orders from above” but on a “submissive void” in the German population. “Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked. “Everyone,” she replied, “and of course the intelligentsia.”

Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger