Bk Orwell West Rifle Quote


"That rifle hanging on the wall
of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage
is the symbol of democracy.
It is our job to see that it stays there."

To Orwell Today,

Ms Jura,

I've been desperately trying to find the full text of Orwell's piece 'Arm the People' for a small research project I'm doing. Most of what I've read has been in the extract from M. Sheldon's biography on your website and I can't find it anywhere. Unfortunately I'm currently unable to go to the archives at UCL and dig it up. If you have it, would it be at all possible for you to e mail me the full transcript? Of course you don't have to, and I have nothing to give you in return but my appreciation.

Yours faithfully,
Jon S

P.S. Happy New Year

Greetings Jon,

Yes, HAPPY NEW YEAR to you too, it being January 1st, 2009 as I write this.

The full context of Orwell's piece about arming the people - ie the "rifle hanging on the wall" quote - is from an article he wrote for the London EVENING STANDARD newspaper on January 8, 1941 entitled DON'T LET COLONEL BLIMP RUIN THE HOME GUARD.

Michael Sheldon, in his Orwell biography, quoted it as being from a TRIBUNE article but then a reader wrote in with the correction of it being actually from the EVENING STANDARD. See ORWELL WAS ARMED and ORWELL'S RIFLE ON WALL

That reader also pointed out that he had read the article in its entirety in the 12th volume of the 20-volume set COMPLETE WORKS OF GEORGE ORWELL edited by Peter Davison in 1998. I don't own that set, just the 4-volume set edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus in 1968 entitled THE COLLECTED ESSAYS, JOURNALISM AND LETTERS OF GEORGE ORWELL and it does not contain that DON'T LET COLONEL BLIMP RUIN THE HOME GUARD article.

That reader had also offered to email me the EVENING STANDARD article but I got side-tracked and overlooked requesting him to do so.

The only place where I have that "rifle hanging on wall" quote in larger context is from the book THE LARGER EVILS: NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, THE TRUTH BEHIND THE SATIRE by W.J. West, the pertinent page of which I've scanned above.

"...Even as it stands the Home Guard could only exist in a coutntry where men feel themselves free. The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do, they cannot give the factory worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. THAT RIFLE HANING ON THE WALL OF THE WORKING-CLASS FLAT OR LABOURER'S COTTAGE IS THE SYMBOL OF DEMOCRACY. IT IS OUR JOB TO SEE IT STAYS THERE..."

The context of the quote is that Orwell was trying to get civilians to join the Home Guard where they'd be given a rifle to defend themselves and country from enemies within and without (including the government if need be). Orwell was also saying that only in a democracy (ie government of, by and for the people) would the government allow its people to be armed and that it was part of the Home Guard's job to make that happen.

That DON'T LET COLONEL BLIMP RUIN THE HOME GUARD article was written in response to the fact that the Left (and the Right) were wanting England to be pacifist in not attacking Germany (until Hitler broke the peace-pact and attacked Russia, after which time the Left and the Right promoted full-out war to defend Stalin against Hitler). Orwell was also complaining about the Home Guard being led by the "blimps" (officers from WWI and earlier) whose idea of training was digging trenches and marching drills instead of weapon handling and urban warfare.

All the best,
Jackie Jura



Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com