But in praising 1984, Harris finds the need to take a whack at Churchill—which he does with singular inaccuracy: “Given that only five years previously Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin had divided up the world into ‘zones of influence’ at the Teheran conference, [Orwell’s] vision did not seem entirely fantastic.”
What is fantastic is where people get such notions. “Zones of influence” came up not at Teheran but at the Moscow (“Tolstoy”) conference between Churchill and Stalin a year later, with the Red Army now far advanced in eastern Europe. Its only effect was to allow Churchill to save Greece from a communist revolution (temporarily; Stalin had another go a few years later). And the only reason we even know about the Moscow agreement was because Churchill freely described it in his war memoirs.
Mr. Harris might have more accurately quoted Orwell’s view of Churchill, noted by Robert Pilpel in “Churchill and Orwell,” Finest Hour 142, Spring 2009:
His writings are more like those of a human being than of a public figure….and whether or not 1940 was anyone else’s finest hour, it was certainly Churchill’s….One has to admire in him not only his courage but also a certain largeness and geniality….The British people have generally rejected his policies, but they have always had a liking for him, as one can see from the tone of the stories told about him….At the time of the Dunkirk evacuation, for instance, it was rumoured that what he actually said, when recording his speech for broadcast, was: “We will fight on the beaches, we will fight in the streets…we’ll throw bottles at the bastards; it’s about all we’ve got left!” One may assume that this story is untrue, but at the time it was felt that it ought to be true. It was a fitting tribute from ordinary people to the tough and humorous old man whom they would not accept as a peacetime leader [in 1945] but whom in the moment of disaster they felt to be representative of themselves.