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Orwell was a socialist

Stop using his books to attack socialist policies

I’ve gotten into more than my fair share of internet debates. I have strong opinions about everything from superior voting systems (instant-runoff voting) to the right level of "doneness" for steaks (medium rare but on the rarer side; this is a hill I will die on). This means that I’ve spent hundreds of hours of my life re-typing the same arguments into Facebook comment sections.

“Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”

— George Orwell

Many people are familiar with Orwell’s allegorical Animal Farm and dystopian Nineteen Eighty-Four, but few realize that the author was actually a devoted socialist. He fought alongside anarchists during the Spanish Civil War (first against the fascists and Francoists and then against the Soviet-backed Communists). While the idea that a self-proclaimed democratic socialist would first fight and then write against the Soviet regime might seem foreign to those with a narrow view of leftist ideology and ignorance of the Spanish Civil War, in reality there is a stark difference between the leftist policies Orwell advocated for and the authoritarian regime that ruled Eastern Europe.

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The flag of Animalism in “Animal Farm”. The horn and hoof are a direct parallel to the Soviet Union’s Hammer and Sickle flag

[Orwell] strongly believed that it was possible to both have strongly leftist views and be critical of [a]… regime that claimed to espouse the same views.

The takeaway from this book for many people is that Orwell wrote it as an attack on socialism and the left. However, Orwell strongly repudiated this interpretation of his work. He explicitly wrote Animal Farm as a satire of the USSR at a time when Brits and Americans alike were largely supportive of the Soviet regime for its involvement in the Second World War. Orwell was disgusted by his countrymen’s apparent kowtowing to the Soviets, but at no point did he give up his leftist beliefs. The author strongly believed that it was possible to both have strongly leftist views and be critical of an autocratic and authoritarian regime that claimed to espouse the same views.

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The symbol of Big Brother has entered common usage to the point that people who haven’t read “1984” use it, indicating Orwell’s impact on discourse around authoritarianism

…fear of a corrupted revolution did not prevent Orwell from supporting the ideal of socialism tempered by… love for freedom.

Nineteen Eighty-Four might, at first glance, seem like a warning against communism and revolution, much like how Animal Farm’s anti-Stalinism might be misinterpreted as anti-communism. In truth, the message of Nineteen Eighty-Four is more nuanced.

Data Specialist, Reading Enthusiast, Amateur Adventurer

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