Granma Diario: Orwell, "great critic of the Soviet State and of fascism"
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Sep 14 08:32:11 MDT 2003
GRANMA DIARIO May 28, 2003
Big Brother Is Watching You. The Predictions of Orwell ROLANDO PEREZ
Without ceremony from those who, during the Cold War, exalted him as
if he were a god of letters, Englishman George Orwell reaches his
100th birthday. Orwell was the great critic of the Soviet State and of
fascism, and his sublime obsession was to transform political
literature into art.
Complex and contradictory, on occasions profound, on others naively
schismatic starting from a utopian concept of independence, Orwell won
the mistrust of conservatives and anarchists, of Stalinists and social
Nevertheless, his two final novels, Animal Farm (1945) and 1984,
published in 1949, one year before his death from tuberculosis, made
him a standard-bearer for international anticommunism. As he made
clear in his work, The Lion and the Unicorn (1941), Orwell wanted the
triumph of English socialism for his country, free of Soviet
To compete with that "alien model," for which there was no lack of
sympathizers in Europe, he wrote Animal Farm, a satire about animals
that was aimed directly against Stalin, the person he considered
responsible for deviations in the Russian revolution.
However, the completion of the novel coincided with the Soviet defeat
of the Germans, and no English publisher wanted to risk publishing
something that went against the ovations and gratitude of half the
Finally, an edition of 25,000 copies appeared in England, and the
novel crossed the Atlantic to the United States. Great surprise! The
1946 American edition sold around
600,000 copies. The New Yorker, always sparing with its praise,
proclaimed that the book was "absolutely masterly," drawing
comparisons with Voltaire and Swift and recommending that we begin
thinking of Orwell as an author of the first order.
As Orwell's American biographer Michael Shelden wrote, "Animal Farm
had an impact on the popular imagination at a time when the Cold War
was beginning to make itself felt. For many years, anticommunism used
the book as a propaganda tool distorting the spirit in which Orwell
had conceived it."
At the height of the war, Orwell had written, "I believe that if the
USSR were conquered by some foreign power, the working class
everywhere would become discouraged, at least for the moment, and the
capitalist cretins who never stopped suspecting Russia would feel
encouraged....I do not want to see the USSR destroyed and I think that
I would have to defend it if necessary."
The loudly trumpeted anticommunism of the Cold War, about which
Shelden speaks, also advanced the novel 1984. Weighed down by the
propaganda, many people who had not read it assumed that the book was
an attack on the socialist ideas of Marx, and talked about an
"Orwellian universe" and other distorted concepts foreshadowed by the
constant battles of the global right.
However, it is clear that 1984 is not an anticommunist novel, but
rather a work aimed against totalitarianism of whatever stripe. The
work describes a gloomy and oppressive future dominated by thought
police. It takes place in London, where Winston Smith is a functionary
in the Ministry of Truth responsible for "correcting" historical facts
so that they always coincide with what is wanted by the leaders.
They are lords of half the world, with designs on subjugating the
universe and whose principal slogans are "War is Peace," "Freedom is
Slavery," and "Ignorance is Strength." All this is controlled by
television monitors, the eyes and ears of the government--Big Brother
determined to know everything and to eliminate the slightest privacy.
More than 50 years have passed since Orwell wrote this cautionary book
and after the febrile anticommunist exaltation, it is scarcely
mentioned in recent times by those who glorified it. One has to be
Today, a neoliberal totalitarianism with a leader from the North seeks
to dominate the world and in it, the three previously mentioned
slogans fit like a ring on a finger. Big Brother lies like the witch
in Snow White and then transmits on his screens whatever suits him. He
creates super ministries of espionage, searches libraries to see what
citizens are reading, controls telephones and other means of
communication, and accuses those who do not support militaristic
adventures of being unpatriotic.
Two days ago, Tim Robins and Susan Sarandon were cut off as they
talked on the Today Show about freedom of expression, while the
contracts of other critics have been cancelled as in the case of actor
Big Brother buys (according to the AP) "access to data banks of
hundreds of millions of inhabitants in Latin American countries,"
calls into his service the phantoms of McCarthyism, and coins the
maximum slogan with no room for shading: "Those who are not with us
are against us."
Orwell called his novel 1984, and there are plenty of indications to
suggest that he was only off by 20 years.
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