History is written by the winners

Here is a little article written by George Orwell during World War II in which he reflects on the nature of history. Keep in mind that Orwell had been an insider with British intelligence and had been so woken to the falsification at the BBC that he based his novel 1984 on his experience working there, his Minitru

AS I PLEASE, by George Orwell
Tribune, February 4, 1944

…Up to a fairly recent date, the major events recorded in the history books probably happened. It is probably true that the battle of Hastings was fought in 1066, that Columbus discovered America, that Henry VIII had six wives, and so on. A certain degree of truthfulness was possible so long as it was admitted that a fact may be true even if you don’t like it. Even as late as the last war it was possible for the Encyclopedia Britannica, for instance, to compile its articles on the various campaigns partly from German sources. Some of the facts — the casualty figures, for instance — were regarded as neutral and in substance accepted by everybody. No such thing would be possible now. A Nazi and a non-Nazi version of the present war would have no resemblance to one another, and which of them finally gets into the history books will be decided not by evidential methods but on the battlefield.

During the Spanish Civil War I found myself feeling very strongly that a true history of this war never would or could be written. Accurate figures, objective accounts of what was happening, simply did not exist. And if I felt that even in 1937, when the Spanish Government was still in being, and the lies which the various Republican factions were telling about each other and about the enemy were relatively small ones, how does the case stand now? Even if Franco is overthrown, what kind of records will the future historian have to go upon? And if Franco or anyone at all resembling him remains in power, the history of the war will consist quite largely of ‘facts’ which millions of people now living know to be lies. One of these ‘facts’, for instance, is that there was a considerable Russian army in Spain. There exists the most abundant evidence that there was no such army. Yet if Franco remains in power, and if Fascism in general survives, that Russian army will go into the history books and future schoolchildren will believe in it. So for practical purposes the lie will have become truth.

This kind of thing is happening all the time. Out of the millions of instances which must be available, I will choose one which happens to be verifiable. During part of 1941 and 1942, when the Luftwaffe was busy in Russia, the German radio regaled its home audience with stories of devastating air raids on London. Now, we are aware that those raids did not happen. But what use would our knowledge be if the Germans conquered Britain? For the purpose of a future historian, did those raids happen, or didn’t they? The answer is: If Hitler survives, they happened, and if he falls they didn’t happen. So with innumerable other events of the past ten or twenty years. Is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion a genuine document? Did Trotsky plot with the Nazis? How many German aeroplanes were shot down in the Battle of Britain? Does Europe welcome the New Order? In no case do you get one answer which is universally accepted because it is true: in each case you get a number of totally incompatible answers, one of which is finally adopted as the result of a physical struggle. History is written by the winners.

In the last analysis our only claim to victory is that if we win the war we shall tell less lies about it than our adversaries. The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits atrocities but that it attacks the concept of objective truth: it claims to control the past as well as the future. In spite of all the lying and self-righteousness that war encourages, I do not honestly think it can be said that that habit of mind is growing in Britain. Taking one thing with another, I should say that the press is slightly freer than it was before the war. I know out of my own experience that you can print things now which you couldn’t print ten years ago. War resisters have probably been less maltreated in this war than in the last one, and the expression of unpopular opinions in public is certainly safer. There is some hope, therefore, that the liberal habit of mind, which thinks of truth as something outside yourself, something to be discovered, and not as something you can make up as you go along, will survive. But I still don’t envy the future historian’s job. Is it not a strange commentary on our time that even the casualties in the present war cannot be estimated within several millions?…


7 Responses to “History is written by the winners”

  1. Sun Wukong Says:

    John this blog entry by Door32 does not need any distraction, the topic alone is more than debatable. There is no need to elaborate long and bride her to you, that everything is relative, the most relative is what we call ‘truth’.
    Even “Death” will be relative, since you have no evidence like coming back from the dead to tell of your Death, hmm John?
    Or is “god” not absolute “relatively” divided by as many humans as are alive on Planet Earth, John?
    Fact is every System, every nation, every individual always twists the facts to suits his deeds (ego) and interests (opportunism) best.
    Historically seen though, these twisting results often in the entire Human History most humans come to know of, becoming more and more nothing but a lie.
    A System based on alone that, a World run like that, will consequently – on the long run- burst like the “Economical Bubble” it has swollen up to become and fall apart.

    Simply “Cause and Effect”, my dear, “We, the People”, hmm?!
    Orwell too, saw it clear coming already!

  2. Door32 Says:

    I guess that a lot of politics is still driven by individual egos and also a lot of opportunism but as the world shrinks there is less and less room for that in a world where the holders of wealth control what happens

  3. John Doe v4.0 Says:

    I am a lover of Orwell’s writings. He was correct in principal, if not in detail. Sun (above) is mistaken. All truths are not relative.

    Let him stick his hand in the fan and verify that.

    That said, I try not to become too overwhelmed that all politics are the result of finely-tuned conspiracies. If I believed that, I’d just go cut my wrists and be done with it.

  4. Wildskigirl2005 Says:

    Hugs Door 32….keep writing……keep making us think.!!
    See you later….hugs again…and smiles.too!

  5. Sun Wukong Says:

    Hm.. the very concept of “Truth” is inadequacy and inauthenticity!
    There is NO such thing as “Truth”, ‘truth’ is ALWAYS relative!

    Consequently him who proclaims ‘truth’, proclaims ‘victory’ and is in fact a liar and a naive revisionists.
    For ‘truth’ would require “Finity”, what is not a given in historical context nor is it in the human condition.

    Simplier said:
    “truth” is total BS!

  6. Door32 Says:

    It is classic Orwellian doublethink. To deny something exists even though it is written down in the text book and ridicule those who say it does, and then they go ahead and teach it. Classic denial, classic doublethink. Brainwashing of the highest order. This is what America has fallen to and people are not protecting their kids from this brainwashing

  7. kathleen p Says:

    from a kid…….

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