What ideology is frightening Nazism or Stalinism

Historical models of totalitarianism in George Orwell`s '1984'

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. Structure and ideology
2.1. The state of "Oceania"
2.2. The dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin as models

3. The oppressed man
3.1. Oppression in "Oceania"
3.2. The dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin as models

4. The propaganda
4.1. Feeding the “Ingsoc” ideology
4.2. The dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin as models

5. The fear policy

6. Summary

1 Introduction

“Whoever feels the value of literature, whoever sees the central role it plays in the development of human history, must also recognize that it is a question of life and death to oppose totalitarianism (...). "1

George Orwell

In a radio address on the BBC in 1941, George Orwell issued this urgent warning against totalitarian government. At a time when totalitarian dictatorships are ruling in both the USSR and Germany, spreading and spreading horror beyond their borders. As a contemporary witness in nearby Britain, threatened by totalitarianism, the politically committed to democratic socialism experiences2 Orwell witnessed how the peoples under Stalin and Hitler gradually lose rights and freedoms, are lied to, incapacitated, oppressed, tortured and even killed. Even if he refers in his radio speech to the threatening question of the survival or death of literature, the worry still sounds from these words that the fall of free literature can only be a beginning.

A beginning that can take a devastating course without resistance and culminate in an inhuman, totalitarian state system, as Orwell did in his dystopia 1984 designed. He completed the novel in 1948 and in it had its main protagonist Winston Smith question the perfected, perverted totalitarian regime of Big Brother 36 years later, in 1984, in a disastrous future. It is obvious that the dictatorships of Stalin and Hitler, among others, served as real historical models for this state, “Oceania”, and this is also clearly demonstrated by research. For example, John Atkins writes in his literary study “George Owell”: “The rulers of 1984 are the direct heirs of Hitler and Stalin (...). "3

This work aims to work out to what extent Orwell's 1984 is based on the observations and experiences with the totalitarian systems of his time and to what extent one can find references to e.g. real historical events in the novel. The main focus here should be on the comparable features of the systems.

2. Structure and ideology

"Therefore, from the point of view of the new groups who were on the point of seizing power, human equality was no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted."4

2.1 The state of "Oceania"

In his state “Oceania” Orwell paints a picture of a totalitarian system whose government is the only existing party “Ingsoc” and whose head is “Big Brother”. The society of "Oceania" is structured according to a strictly hierarchical caste system that consists of the "Inner Party" (about 2% of the population), the "Outer Party" (about 13% of the population) and the "Proles" (about 85% the population) exists; whereby the "Inner Party" represents the upper class and government, the "Outer Party" the executive organ and the "Proles" the working people (cf. 1984, 208).

There is no separation of powers and no applicable law ("(...) nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws" (1984, 6), even the past and the related historiography is under the control of the system; all domestic and foreign policy concerns of the state and its people are in the hands of Ingsoc (1984, 211). Ingsoc's foreign policy goal consists in the practically impossible extinction of the two other world superpowers "Eurasia" and "Eastasia"; whereby "Oceania" always lives in a permanent state of war with one of the two powers and is allied with the other (cf. 1984, 185). Domestically, “Oceania” distinguishes itself as a terrorist state that monitors the members of the two “parties” almost completely through the “telescreens” and allows the lowest stratum of the population to survive at the subsistence level. Every segment of the population is primarily burdened with the war-related economic hardship and the associated difficult living conditions, with the "parties" - especially the "inner party" - being granted various privileges such as luxury goods. Apart from the organization of the so difficult survival, the uneducated "proles" are kept in check by various domestic political measures, such as film or gambling. The members of the "parties", on the other hand, have to organize themselves in various party-owned - mostly propaganda-related - groupings, such as the "Junior Anti Sex League" (cf. 1984, 10) and take part in daily "Two Minutes Hate" meetings (cf. 1984, 9). In addition to total surveillance, the public's loyalty to the state is ensured by the "Thought Police" (cf. 1984, 3) monitored and regulated if necessary, the latter rarely happening in public, but rather people simply disappear and in some cases never reappear. Various punishment measures, some of which are only rumored to be known, are initiated here, from being transported to "joycamps" (1984, 306), that is, forced labor camps through torture to "vaporization" (cf. 1984, 19), so liquidation is sufficient.

2.2 The totalitarian states of Hitler and Stalin as models

In particular, it is the inhuman punishments that lead the reader to the forced labor or concentration camps and gulags5 or to think of re-education camps under the dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin. During this real-political time in German and Russian history, many anti-party-minded people also disappeared and were brought to the aforementioned “institutions”, around which a frightening myth often arose - after all, hardly anyone returned. Orwell, on the other hand, must have known many details of the Nazi persecution of people since 1984 yes, it came into being after the fall of the Third Reich. The haunting and harrowing manner in which Orwell describes the torture and re-education of Winston Smith suggests that he was not unfamiliar with the practices of these reigns of terror. But those are not the only parallels between reality and Orwell's fiction.

The entire structure of the "Ingsoc" system is similar to that of the real dictatorships, just as they were similar to one another. "Orwell was one of the first leftists (who) summarized the similarities of the systems under the term of totalitarianism"6 In fact, the governments were also hierarchically structured, with Hitler or Stalin and their respective parties at the top. The judiciary, legislative and executive branches were ultimately subordinate to this head alone, which, in contrast to “Ingsoc”, introduced a legal system that was party-ideological. All individual aspects of life were subject to regulated leadership - which was led under the National Socialist name "Gleichschaltung" and which began in the USSR mainly through the forced collectivization of all individual possessions. In "Oceania" too, "wealth, in the sense of personal possesions" (1984, 190) poses a threat to the supremacy of the party.

But the aforementioned "Thought Police" also has its counterpart in the story. The secret police NKVD, controlled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and the National Socialist Gestapo, respectively the SS, acted as executive power and monitoring body 1984 carries (see 1984, 222). Another hallmark of the National Socialist reality in 1984 are the various organized groups, such as the “Junior Anti Sex League” or the “Youth League” and its subgrouping “The Spies”, which can be compared with the youth organizations Hitler Youth or the Young Pioneers of Stalin - and also especially with the Denunciation of possible party enemies were instructed.

Ultimately, Orwell also cites various references to dogmas of one or the other dictatorship, which are too many in number to deal with in detail here. As an example, the “Ingsoc” -internal conception of the ideal human being should be cited, which strikingly resembles Hitler's propagated racial image: “(...) tall muscular youths and deep bosomed maidens, blond-haired, vital, sunburnt, carefree-existed and even predominated "(1984, 60).


1 Radio address in the BBC Overseas Service, 1941, in: Lewy, Gunther, Neumann, H. / Scheer, H. (Eds.): Plus minus 1984, Freiburg 1983, p. 72

2 Neumann, H. / Scheer, H. (Eds.): Plus minus 1984, Freiburg 1983, p. 13

3 Atkins, John: George Orwell - A Literary Study, Sussex 1954, p. 249

4 Orwell, George: 1984, Orlando: Signet Classics 1977, p.74

The work 1984 by George Orwell will be used in the following after this edition using the sigle> 1984

5 Lowenthal, Richard: Beyond totalitarism, in: Howe, Irwing (Ed.): 1984 - Revisted, New York 1983, p.236

6 Büthe, Lutz: In the footsteps of George Orwell, Hamburg 1984, p.304

End of the reading sample from 16 pages