I’ve been rereading some of Orwell’s essays. When I was young I went from near-worship of Orwell to starting to see his flaws. When I read him nowadays, it seems as though all I see are the flaws… and yet I love him as much as I ever did.
I was struck by his classism in the essay "Raffles and Miss Blandish."
Arguing that hard-boiled, morally-ambivalent fiction is fascistic, Orwell claims:
People worship power in the form in which they are able to understand it. A twelve-year-old boy worships Jack Dempsey. An adolescent in a Glasgow slum worships Al Capone. An aspiring pupil at a business college worships Lord Nuffield. A New Statesman reader worships Stalin.
As someone who comes from a Glasgow slum, I laugh sadly when I read this. Here is what Orwell doesn’t understand: In the same way that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, powerlessness also corrupts, and absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely.
Orwell concludes the essay by praising, in so many words, snobbishness and hypocrisy. He shows his own snobbishness in his view that, while it’s good and proper for “serious” fiction to be morally ambivalent, “popular” fiction should be morally black and white, presumably so that we barbarians from Glasgow slums won’t become fascists.