Orwell On Totalitarianism

And I believe that totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph again.
-George Orwell

Mankind and the individuals that comprise it, conscious of it or not, are in a constant pursuit of something: happiness, perfection, wealth, or popularity. Yet there is something, a more worthy, substantial pursuit that is common amongst many others: the relentless pursuit of what he believes to be a certain TRUTH that exists. Perhaps one of the most dedicated of these people in his attempts to seek out and expose the truth is writer Eric Arthur Blair, (Nom de plume: George Orwell) particularly in his novel 1984. In order to understand Orwell’s political opinions, platforms and his desire to unveil the truth about certain governments, we must analyse his past: his experience in Burma, Spain, and England. It was through these experiences that involved propaganda and totalitarian regimes that Orwell came to develop his views on sovereignties which he later compiled in his satirical novel 1984. Though this allegorical story has an interesting "surface" tale, it must be analysed on a deeper level in order to fully understand the author’s purpose. It is through a more intense investigation of the novel that the reader comes to recognize 1984’s verisimilitude. It has become apparent that 1984 is not an anachronistic representation of a past totalitarian society; it has becomes a timeless book whose characters, lessons, and themes can be seen in the year 1996.

Orwell was born in India in 1903, his father working for the Civil Service at a time when England’s imperialism was peaking. At the age of fourteen Orwell entered Eton School in England. It was at Eton that Orwell first became exposed to totalitarian leadership under the watchful eyes of his schoolmasters who "used kicks and caresses to keep the boys in line." Once graduated from Eton, Orwell decided to work for the British Government in Burma as a member of the Imperial Police. There Orwell was exposed to many executions and other developments that resulted under imperial rule. It was at this points that Orwell "had already made up his mind that imperialism was an evil thing." Therefore Burma was seen as a point of change for Orwell: in Burma Orwell established a hatred for the superimposition of the British Government upon the Burmese. Yet while this developed Orwell’s opinion of such governments, his experience in Burma was only the beginning of what would come to be an extensive political resumé of experience.

Following his work in Burma, Orwell felt "obligated to expose the truth," as he had fully come to recognize that "totalitarianism was a basic evil." His further experience strengthened his opinions. After returning from Burma, Orwell wasted away as a poor beggar for several years and then went to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War. In part, it is believed that this was done because Orwell felt indebted to the world for his actions in Burma. To "equal" himself with others, he felt it necessary to "reduce" himself on a social level. Moreover, Orwell wished for an experience where he was considered to be a commoner, since the class system in England was far too restrictive for this to happen. Orwell himself said: "the class system- it hit you like a stone wall." In Spain Orwell fought with the Republicans and there recognized that it was "impossible to fight for any side without recognizing it as an unjustifiable tyranny." While Orwell had originally thought that Spain would be a rejuvenating experience, he quickly came to learn that even the side he was fighting for was in arms with itself. That is, the Americans, British, and Communists fighting Fascism were themselves in dispute. It was as a result of Orwell’s dissatisfaction in this incident that he almost came to be slain by a group of Communists. In Spain Orwell suffered injuries and later returned to England where he worked for the BBC. Concurrently the Second World War was under way, and Orwell familiarised himself with the Russian situation. Having just felt the frustration of the Spanish War, Orwell was once again outraged that the Russians as a people and the rest of the World were not truly recognising Stalin’s oppressive ruling. He took the stage and pointed out the truth. The fact was that little was known about Russian life behind the iron curtain: information was limited to government agency reports that only published the good news while inside sources mysteriously contradicted one another. It was as a result of these experiences that Orwell came to develop his views as expressed in the novel 1984 and Animal Farm.

Through his political experience, Orwell was not only inspired to write, but he made his goal in writing to reveal the faults of a totalitarian system:

"Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for socialism, as I understand it."
And so, the world was given 1984 and Animal Farm where Orwell criticized the totalitarian governments of the world for their platforms. Collectively, his works came to reject the governments which sought a utopia that Orwell had, at an early age, recognised to be impossible to achieve. It was through his writing that this ultimate prophesy was established. Orwell matured as an experienced man whose young and adult exposure had opened his eyes to multitude of political clashes. It was through these trials in Burma, Russia, and Spain that Orwell began to develop a disapproval for totalitarian ruling forces and an admiration for socialism. Moreover, through leaders such as Russia’s Stalin, identified as "the greatest," Orwell found many flaws. Consequently Orwell set on a mission to expose the truth to the world; to save it’s countries from futile attempts to create utopian states far too idealistic to be reality. In his life and work, Orwell was truly dedicated to being a beacon of light in the totalitarian night!

Rudy Sedlak
14 December, 1996