Communism Through The Eyes of George Orwell
Throughout history, writers have written about many different subjects based on their personal experiences. George Orwell was the pen name of Eric Blair. He is one of the most famous political satirists of the twentieth century. He was born in Bengal, India in 1903 to an English Civil Servant and died in 1950. He attended Eton from 1917 to 1921, and served with the Indian Imperial Police in Burma from 1922 to 1927 before moving to Europe.Two of his most famous books, Animal Farm, written in 1946, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, written in 1949, were written about the political and social environment surrounding his life. ³The driving force behind his two satires is an intense revulsion against totalitarianism, combined with an even stronger revulsion against its defenders among left-wing intellectuals.²1 In most of George Orwell¹s books and essays, there is a strong autobiographical element due to the fact that he spent many years living with Communists in northern Great Britain (a small number of people started to follow Communism in northern Great Britain when it started in Russia). George Orwell¹s writing was affected greatly by his personal beliefs about Socialism, Communism, Fascism, and Totalitarianism, and by the revolts, wars, and revolutions going on in Europe and Russia at the time of his writings.
George Orwell was a Socialist2 himself, and he despised Russian Communism3, and what it stood for. Orwell shows this hatred towards Communist Russia in a letter he wrote to Victor Gollancz saying, ³For quite fifteen years I have regarded that regime with plain horror.²4 Orwell wrote this letter in 1947, ten years after announcing his dislike of Communism. However, he had thought a great deal about Communism and what he disliked about if for a long time before he announced it to the public. Orwell ³did not expect anything good from the Communist²5 and therefore Communism personally did not affect him, but ³He was concerned with it (Communism) only because it was a problem for others.²6
In Animal Farm, ³an animal fable satirizing Communism,²7 Orwell uses farm animals in England to satirize Russian Communism and its leaders. One animal he uses is a pig named Napoleon, whose counterpart in the Russian Revolution is Joseph Stalin. After Napoleon takes charge of the farm, he assumes the role of a dictator that benefits himself much like Stalin did. During Stalin¹s reign, 1929-1953, he used terror to enforce his laws, and allowed no one to oppose his decisions. If someone did oppose him, he would punish him or her harshly. In Animal Farm, Napoleon also uses violent force to enforce his laws. Napoleon showed this force when he ³called upon them to confess their crimes....When they had finished their confession, the dogs promptly tore their throats out, and in a terrible voice Napoleon demanded whether any other animal had anything to confess.²8 This violent force that Joseph Stalin used to enforce his laws is one of the main reasons that Orwell disagreed with the main principles behind Communism and its leaders.
Another comparison that Orwell makes between Napoleon and Stalin is the changing of history to benefit themselves. In Animal Farm, Napoleon often changes history to make himself look better. Even though Snowball, the other pig that was in charge with Napoleon, was the true hero in the ³Battle of the Cowshed,²9 Napoleon makes himself out to be the hero. Squealer, one of Napoleon¹s top pigs in command, says,²Do you not remember how, just at the moment when Jones and his men had got inside the yard, Snowball suddenly turned and fled...that it was just at that moment when panic was spreading and all seemed lost, that Comrade Napoleon sprang forward with a cry of ŒDeath to Humanity!¹²10 Just as Squealer retold the event to Napoleon¹s benefit,the same thing can be said about Stalin. After he ³became dictator of the Soviet Union, he had history books rewritten to say that he had led the revolution with Lenin.²11 This however is not the truth. In reality, it was Leon Trotsky who led the revolution with Lenin. This is just one of the many comparisons that Orwell makes between Stalin and Napoleon. Stalin was what Orwell and people who were against Communism feared the most; a ruler who rules only for his own power.
Orwell uses another pig named Snowball to symbolize the part that Lenin played in the Russian Revolution. Lenin was the founder of the Communist Party in Russia and set up the first Communist dictatorship in the world. ³Lenin¹s goals were the destruction of free enterprise (privately owned and controlled business) and the creation of a classless society ( a society without groups of rich or poor people).²12 These were the general goals of Snowball also. Lenin and Snowball shared one major goal in common and that was to industrialize the societies that they controlled and lived in. Right before Lenin died, he ³introduced a new economic policy and aimed to improve industrial skills and education².13 In comparison, Snowball was the mastermind behind the windmill in Animal Farm. The purpose of the windmill that Snowball was designing was to ³do their work for them while they grazed at their ease in the fields or improved their minds with reading and conversation.²14 As one might see these plans are almost identical. Both call for a more productive working environment in which the people of the working class will also gain knowledge.
In Animal Farm, Karl Marx, the father of Communism is represented by a Middle White boar named Old Major. On the first page of Animal Farm it is announced that Old Major ³had a strange dream on the previous night and wished to communicate it to the other animals.²15 His dream foresees their future in the farm once ³Man² is thrown out. He says, ³Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove Man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished for ever.²16 Marx predicted in his Manifesto of the Communist Party which he wrote with his friend Friedrich Engels, ³that the ruling middle class will be overthrown by the working class.²17 Marx and Old Major are almost identical. They both felt that the working class was being exploited and that sooner or later, they would rise against middle ruling class. ³The result of this revolution , according to Marx and Engles, will be a classless society in which the chief means of production are publicly owned.²18 Marx and Old Major were both right in their predictions. However, they could not foresee the problems that Communism would create. Orwell saw this problem happen and ³From about 1935 he was convinced that Russia had taken the wrong path and had become a tyranny.²19
The environment surrounding Orwell led him to write another book about the effects that Communism has on a society, this book is Nineteen Eighty-Four. In this famous political satire Orwell presents to the reader a character named Winston Smith. This character that Orwell created ³is meant to be very much like us20². Orwell uses the name Winston Smith to create one to the biggest ironies in the novel. Winston was the first names of one of the greatest and most powerful statesman of this century, Winston Churchill. On the other hand, Smith is one of the most common last names in the English language. Orwell did this to show that even though Winston is in The Party21 he has no power or authority which makes him an ordinary man, just like the reader. This is also a reference to Winston Churchill who was very much against Russian Communism. Winston, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, is conspiring against the party which stands for a dictatorship similar to Russian Communism. He becomes a martyr, and in the end, sacrifices his life for something in which he believes in. Orwell did not write Nineteen Eighty-Four as a prediction as many people think. He wrote it as an alert about what can happen if Communism takes over. Orwell portrayed Winston as a puppet in trying to get across his point that Communism must be stopped.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the character Big Brother is a symbol of The Party¹s dominance over Oceania, post war England in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Big Brother in actuality did not exist. He is just a distortion of reality created by The Party to strike fear into the minds of the citizens. Big Brother was supposed to make everyone feel like they were always being watched and could never escape no matter how hard they tried. Orwell made no distinct reference to whom Big Brother was supposed to symbolize in Russian Communism, but his physical description is one ³of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black mustache and ruggedly handsome features.²22 This could be a reference to Stalin or to a combination of dictators, but no matter how one looks at it this is an example of typical propaganda used by dictatorships to help their cause, themselves. Everyone has most likely heard the saying ³Big Brother is watching you², and in today¹s society this is slowly becoming a reality. In San Francisco police helicopters are hovering low over the city and creating ³an impression that Big Brother is hovering over you².23 In another California city police cameras have been installed on every street corner to watch for crime, but some people see it as an invasion of privacy. Orwell also saw this as an invasion of privacy and that is why he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four.
In Nineteen Eighty-Four if someone is to defy The Party he will simply be erased. This was a reality in Russia even before the Communists came into control of the government.
Under the czars, the Russian secret police had often arrested
revolutionists and sent them into exile without trial. Stalin set
up a police system that was far more terrible.24
Stalin was a dictator to the fullest extent. ³In 1935, Stalin started a purge (elimination) of most of the old Bolsheviks associated with Lenin. During the next few years, he killed anyone who might have threatened his power.²25 By the end of his purge there was no one left to go against what he said, and he had accomplished his main objective, total control of the U.S.S.R. This is the same goal as Big Brother, actually what he symbolized since he doesn¹t exist. The Party¹s Thought Police in Orwell¹s novel, which represent the Czar¹s Secret Police and Stalin¹s Police combined, will simply erase or get rid of people if they pose a threat to them or to their cause.
It is easy to see how the political and social climate of the time influenced George Orwell¹s writings. This is evident in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, where he shows his dislike of Communism. As the Russian Communists grew stronger Orwell¹s dislike for them grew equally as strong. His writings contained warnings to the people of England and the world not to be misguided by Communism. These two novels were among the first to show the true brutality of the Communist party and helped to open the eyes of the American people to the dangers of Communism, that ³all-pervasive and controlling state, and to rulers who wish to maintain power as much for its sake as for their own advantage.²26
1-Miriam Gross, The World of George Orwell (New York, NY:Simon and Schuster, 1971) pg.136
2-socialism-a theory or system of Social organization by which the major means of production and distribution are owned, managed, or controlled by the government, associations of workers, or by the community as a whole
3-communism-a system in which most or all property is owned by the state and is supposed to be shared by all. Communism comes from a philosophy based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles, who together wrote the Manifesto of the Communist Party
4-Miriam Gross, The World of George Orwell (New York, NY:Simon and Schuster, 1971) pg.120
5-Richard J. Voorhees, The Paradox of George Orwell (New York, NY:Purdue Research Foundation, 1961) pg.22
6-Miriam Gross, The World of George Orwell (New York, NY:Simon and Schuster, 1971) pg.119
7-Frank W. Wadsworth, ³Orwell, George,² World Book Encyclopedia, 1988 ed., pg.866
8-George Orwell, Animal Farm (New York, NY:Harcourt Brace Jovanavich, Inc.,1946) pg.82-83
9-The Battle of the Cowshed was a battle that took place between the Animals of Animal Farm and the humans who were attacking. This battle represents the invasion of German forces into the western part of the newly formed U.S.S.R.
10-George Orwell, Animal Farm (New York, NY:Harcourt Brace Jovanavich, Inc.,1946) pg.80
11-³Stalin, Joseph,² World Book Encyclopedia, 1988 ed., pg.826
12-³Lenin, V.I.,² World Book Encyclopedia, 1988 ed., pg.191
14-George Orwell, Animal Farm (New York, NY:Harcourt Brace Jovanavich, Inc.,1946) pg.54
17-Alfred G. Meyer, ³Marx, Karl,² World Book Encyclopedia, 1988 ed., pg.237
19-Miriam Gross, The World of George Orwell (New York, NY:Simon and Schuster, 1971) pg.136
20-The Party represents the Communist party in Russia. It has a total dictatorship over Oceania, post war England in the novel. They use the same violent force that the Communist used to enforce their laws, and almost everything else is the same as the Communist party.
21-Gilbert Borman, Cliffs Notes of Orwell¹s Nineteen Eighty-Four (Lincoln, Nebraska: Cliffs Notes Inc.,1984) pg.23
22-George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanaich, Inc., 1949) pg.5
23-Edward W. Lempinen, ³S.F. Police Copters¹ Turbulent Return,² San Francisco Chronicle 22 March 1996, sec A:1 & A:15
24-³Stalin, Joseph,² World Book Encyclopedia, 1988 ed., pg.827
26-Peter Stansky, On Nineteen Eighty-Four (San Francisco, California: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1983) pg.25
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³Stalin, Joseph.² World Book Encyclopedia. 1988 ed.
³Lenin, V.I.² World Book Encyclopedia. 1988 ed.