Well, then what? Do we have to conclude that it is the duty of every writer to “keep out of politics”? Certainly not! In any case, as I have said already, no thinking person can or does genuinely keep out of politics, in an age like the present one. I only suggest that we should
draw a sharper distinction than we do at present between our political and our literary loyalties, and should recognise that a willingness to DO certain distasteful but necessary things does not carry with it any obligation to swallow the beliefs that usually go with them. When a writer engages in politics he should do so as a citizen, as a human being, but not AS A WRITER. I do not think that he has the right, merely on the score of his sensibilities, to shirk the ordinary dirty work of politics. Just as much as anyone else, he should be prepared to deliver lectures in draughty halls, to chalk pavements, to canvass voters, to distribute leaflets, even to fight in civil wars if it seems necessary. But whatever else he does in the service of his party, he should never write for it. He should make it clear that his writing is a thing apart. And he should be able to act co-operatively while, if he chooses, completely rejecting the official ideology. He should never turn back from a train of thought because it may lead to a heresy, and he should not mind very much if his unorthodoxy is smelt out, as it probably will be.
It might be objected that Orwell himself wrote an awful lot about politics from a definite point of view (which he defined in “Why I Write” as “against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism”). He even cited “political purpose” as one of four reasons that serious writers have for writing. But before accusing him of hypocrisy, we must read on for more nuance. “There is no reason,” he says, that a writer “should not write in the most crudely political way, if he wishes to. Only he should do so as an individual, an outsider, at the most an unwelcome guerilla on the flank of a regular army.” (His position is reminiscent of James Baldwin’s, a political writer who “excoriated the protest novel.”) And if the writer finds some of that army’s positions untenable, “then the remedy is not to falsify one’s impulses, but to remain silent.”