Hi all. The following is a brilliant piece of writing by my Level 4 friend Mahid. He's a Conan loving typical engineering student with a penchant for using big words and is most known for his big hair.
|Image from GeckoandFly|
I first read Animal Farm when I was 18 years old. I was unaware of George Orwell’s work and its lasting significance in geopolitics of the modern world. I also did not know anything about the Russian Revolution which is so wittily and meticulously satirised in Animal Farm. After having recently read a book by Abraham Ascher on The Russian Revolution I decided it was time I revisited the book.
With the second reading of the novel came the realisation that the pigs, Snowball and Napoleon were taking the roles of the revolutionaries Trotsky and Stalin. The former was a strict adherent to socialist ideals of Karl Marx, represented by Old Major in the book, but as his party gained power, he made devastating compromises on his ideals to the extent that the first principles were almost forgotten. Trotsky is described by Ascher as a remarkable orator and capable of uniting the agitated and the disenchanted. Stalin, after the revolution, climbed the ranks of the Bolshevik party through cunning and manipulation despite lacking any noteworthy charm. It was his brute that came in handy as he staged show trials and disposed his political rivals by exile or execution.
The Russian Revolution which began as a bold experiment to instil true Marxist communism after the removal of Tsar Nicholas II (Mr Jones of the Manor Farm), was disfigured into a Bolshevik obsession to gain ultimate and lasting power over the empire where dissent was deemed treason and dealt with using bayonets. Marxist doctrine was altered and reinterpreted to fit the Leader’s vision of a utopian state. In fact Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, published posthumously, were suppressed in the post-revolutionary Russia. I doubt that the Stalinists appreciated the irony.
In 1984, Orwell describes this as the infection of socialism with the vulgar utopianism. Utopia, almost by definition, is a soulless notion. Promises are made about the absolute eradication of all human suffering, leading to infinite happiness. By assuming and imagining a future where there are no more grievances, it becomes possible to justify any atrocities committed in the apparent pursuit of that future. In essence this was the philosophy of the Soviet Union and the provisional government that preceded it. Ironically the end result was in effect the recrudescence of Tsarist Russia where Stalin, the Leader, ruled with an iron fist and an elite class enjoyed a hedonistic life while the peasant majority starved. The pigs and the farmers had become indistinguishable.
"By assuming and imagining a future where there are no more grievances, it becomes possible to justify any atrocities committed in the apparent pursuit of that future."
While the novel does not tell us what became of Snowball, Trotsky found refuge in Mexico after he was exiled from Russia. Stalin not content with having his colleague exiled, and attempting to tarnish and diminish him further by issuing revised writings of the revolution, used the Secret Police to bribe a Mexican communist who attacked Trotsky in his study, hacking him to death.
Both Animal Farm and 1984 draws a lot from the Russian Revolution. The former has been described as satire on the period, solely because the totalitarian nature of what came out of the revolution could only be satirized by removing it from the human experience. Any personal account of life under a totalitarian regime is bound to instil crippling fear –as 1984 does - rather than induce laughter.
Unlike the Stalinist Russia, what the Big Brother of 1984 achieves is far beyond the collectivisation of food. It is the collectivisation of thought itself. All music, poetry, and literature originate from the top and is distributed to the lower parts of the hierarchy. The result is the utter decimation of individuality, personal aspirations and thought, while flooding the society with faceless, nameless entities who speak not with the brain but with the larynx, as the novel describes. The mind becomes so disjoint from reality that it cannot be convinced that it is oppressed let alone asked to stand up against it.
The law that was passed not long ago by the Majlis, stating that all literary content should first be vetted by the government before being distributed or published, was very reminiscent of everything we would describe as “Orwellian”. The Youth Ministry (we will never find out how the onus fell on them) later issued a statement saying that social media was conveniently exempted from the law. I can only suspect that this exception was less of a testament to the government’s leniency but more of a realisation that the law would be impossible to enforce on the internet.
"You are asked to love the cruelty dictated on to you by the regime, leaving us with the the ugliest doublethink one can conceive and the worst form of denigration and abjection of the human spirit."
In essence, 1984 is about love. The snatching away of genuine love to be replaced by compulsory love, extorted from the subjects under the threat of torture and humiliation. You are demanded to love the Big Brother, while simultaneously fearing him. You are asked to love the cruelty dictated on to you by the regime, leaving us with the the ugliest doublethink one can conceive and the worst form of denigration and abjection of the human spirit.
Thank you Mahid for so eloquently putting this into words.