You’ve Got to Read George Orwell’s Review of ‘Mein Kampf’

Charles Pierce/Esquire

I plan on printing this passage out and putting it on the refrigerator.

Here is something I did not know. I’ve read all the literary highlights by George Orwell, but I did not know that, in 1940, he reviewed the latest edition/translation of Mein Kampf for the New English Weekly. Needless to say, it is brilliant and scathing, not merely concerning Hitler, but all the forces who enabled him to rise to power, thinking his movement could be controlled. It is also prescient — not merely for 1940, but for 2020 as well. (Orwell predicts that, their temporary alliance notwithstanding, Hitler would get around to attacking Russia.) Here are some passages from the review. See if there are modern…er…applications.

The initial, personal cause of his grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is here. He is the martyr, the victim, Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handed against impossible odds. If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon. One feels, as with Napoleon, that he is fighting against destiny, that he can’t win, and yet that he somehow deserves to. The attraction of such a pose is of course enormous; half the films that one sees turn upon some such theme.

Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation ‘Greatest happiness of the greatest number’ is a good slogan, but at this moment ‘Better an end with horror than a horror without end’ is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.”

I plan on printing this out and putting it on the old refrigerator in preparation for the 2024 election.

Leave a Reply