Friday, 22 January 2010

George Orwell....

Yesterday, 21st January marked the 60th anniversary of the death of George Orwell, best known for his novels 1984 and Animal Farm.

Orwell was a pen name: he was born Eric Arthur Blair (no relation to ~ Anthony Charles Linton Blair of illegal Iraq war infamy I hasten to add) in 1903, the son of a British colonial civil servant. He went to Eton, joined the imperial police in Burma, and in 1927, decided to become a writer. In the 1920s he had anarchist leanings, but before long he became attracted to socialism. In 1936 he fought with the Republicans (socialists) against Franco (fascists) in the Spanish Civil War. In that conflict, however, his worst enemy turned out to be the Spanish Communists, who were backed by Stalin and were quite willing to put down anyone, including socialists like him, who might dissent from their ideology. I highly recommend reading The Battle for Spain by Anthony Beevor (published by Phoenix) for an in depth exploration of the causes and effects of the conflict, the wounds of which in many parts of Spain are still deep today.

During the Second World War, Orwell worked at the BBC and in 1943 (now a prolific journalist and author), he became literary editor of the socialist journal Tribune. His belief that Stalin had betrayed the ideals of the Russian Revolution came out in his short 1945 fable, Animal Farm – which became a huge success.

And if I can quote one of the most famous passages from this:

“No question now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Four years later, he published 1984. Many today still erroneously believe it was an analogy of Hitler's regime under fascism something he always denied when in fact it has many striking similarities to his hatred of Stalin's totalitarian state. Though notionally set in the future, it was a grim portrayal for many of the horrors of Stalinism: his description of Big Brother, for example, is a close description of Stalin himself, while the 'traitor' Goldstein shares many features with Trotsky.

It may surprise some people but Stalin was responsible for more deaths than Hitler ever was under their respective regimes. Life under National Socialism in Hitler’s third Reich was grim and unforgiving for dissenters and opponents of the regime, but as long as you had your portrait of the Fuehrer on the wall, a copy of Mein Kampf on the bookshelf and didn’t utter dissenting mumblings in public you were left alone.

Stalin by comparison was paranoid about treachery and was a past master practioner of the art himself. In the Soviet Union you could be a fervent Communist outwardly and inwardly even ideologically committed to the cause but still be suspect to random unexpected brutal repression and summary execution when you least expected it, because of a misunderstood comment here or an opponents whisper there.

The two books remain as ever powerful descriptions of how revolutionaries, having torn down the old laws and regime, create new unjust self serving laws which often create a worse, inhuman nightmare of their own. They provide a strong warning against the concentration of State power in a few hands. Against socialism, in fact!

Read them for they are excellent books and ponder on their message, for you will see many parallels with the socially engineered society of Britain today under Nu-Labour and liberalism.

Sadly Orwell died in 1950 from tuberculosis which he contracted in 1938. I'll leave you with his own words from 1984 which are very apt in light of the political spin and various whitewash judicial reviews we've seen over the last decade on subjects such as Iraq (WMD) death of Dr. Kelly and various other manipulations of the truth.

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' "

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