Agence France-Presse, 3 September 2007
LONDON (AFP) — Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5 kept tabs on George Orwell for more than two decades but did not believe he was a mainstream communist, according to records made public on Tuesday.
In a file released by Britain's National Archives, Orwell -- author of 1984 and Animal Farm -- was described by Scotland Yard's Special Branch, as having "advanced communist views." Special Branch deals with subversive activities.
But these observations that were challenged by MI5.
The Security Service, as MI5 is officially known, also did not raise any objections when Orwell -- referred to by his real name Eric Blair -- was being vetted for a job with the Sunday Observer newspaper at Allied Forces Headquarters.
A January 1942 report from Special Branch describes Orwell as having "advanced communist views and several of his Indian friends say that they have often seen him at Communist meetings ... He dresses in a bohemian fashion both at his office and in his leisure hours."
But an MI5 officer wrote: "It is evident from his recent writings -- The Lion And The Unicorn -- and his contribution to Gollancz's symposium 'The Betrayal Of The Left' that he does not hold with the Communist Party nor they with him."
Orwell first came to the attention of the intelligence community when MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service, noted that he apparently offered to work as the Paris correspondent for the Workers Life publication.
Another report from 1942 described Orwell, who fought against Franco in the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, as someone who "has been a bit of an anarchist in his day and in touch with extremist elements."
It went on to say that he had "undoubtedly strong left-wing views, but he is a long way from orthodox communism."
What also helped convince the security services were his replies to a questionnaire published in Left magazine. In it, he said that if the Soviet Union survived World War II it would not become dominant and establish its brand of communism over Europe.
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