Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Orwell and Duranty

A Re-Reading of Animal Farm
by Robert A. Waters

In 1932, Walter Duranty won the Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles that minimized one of Russia’s several holocausts--the deliberate starvation of millions of Ukrainians by Stalin’s communist government. A few years later, a well-known British author named George Orwell was turned down by publisher after publisher when he submitted a “fable” critical of the revolution. Needless to say, once it was published, Animal Farm did not win a Pulitzer.

Orwell’s own publisher wouldn’t touch the book because of its depiction of the brutal murderousness of the Russian regime. After several more rejections, a small anti-communist company called Secker & Warburg published it in 1945. Despite its inauspicious debut, Animal Farm has been named one of the top 100 novels in the English language.

A few days ago, I re-read the book. I first encountered Animal Farm while in college. I’d just read 1984, a sci-fyish yet realistic novel which literally scared any tendencies toward liberal thought straight out of me. Then I picked up Animal Farm.

The story itself is well-known. The animals at Jones’s Manor Farm, downtrodden with heavy work-loads, revolt and take the farm from its be-sotted owner. They rename it Animal Farm, and pledge to run the place with the idealistic view that “all animals are equal.” But within months, the pigs, smarter than the rest, hijack the revolution. They murder animal “comrades” that don’t agree with them. They force low-intelligent animals to work even harder and longer than they ever did under their human owner. All the while, the pigs lounge around and grow fat while the other animals starve and die of over-work. Orwell’s final conclusion is that some animals are “more equal” than others.

One of his several conclusions seems to be that Russian citizens were better off with the Czars than under Stalin’s murderous communist dictatorship.

He was right, of course. Stalin was responsible for the deaths of a staggering 110 million people. Author R. J. Rummel wrote an article entitled, “How Many Did Communist Regimes Murder?” In it he states, “Few would deny any longer that communism--Marxist-Leninism and its variants--meant in practice bloody terrorism, deadly purges, lethal gulags and forced labor, fatal deportations, man-made famines, extrajudicial executions and show trials, and genocide.”

While Duranty blind-eyed the obvious, Orwell wrote two long-lasting works describing the terror of totalitarian rule. With the exception of the Bible, Animal Farm and 1984 have had a greater impact on my views than most other books. In my world-view, freedom always trumps restriction. Dictators, left or right, scare me.

While the New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner’s writings are generally scorned today as propaganda, Orwell’s books are still influencing readers.

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