George Orwell - 60th anniversary


altTomorrow marks 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 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 fought with the Republicans against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. In that conflict, however, his worst enemy turned out to be the Communists, who were backed by Stalin and were quite willing to put down anyone, including socialists like him, who might dissent from their ideology.

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. Four years later, his hatred of Stalin's totalitarian state led to his publication of 1984. Though notionally set in the future, it was in fact a grim portrayal of the horrors of Stalinism: his description of Big Brother, for example, is a close description of Stalin, while the 'traitor' Goldstein shares features with Trotsky.

The two books remain as powerful descriptions of how revolutionaries, having torn down the old laws, often create a worse, inhuman nightmare of their own. They provide a strong warning against the concentration of power in a few hands. Against socialism, in fact.

See Dr Butler's new Alternative Manifesto here.