REVIEW OF 1984
By Isaac Asimov
I've been writing a four-part article for Field Newspaper Syndicate at the
beginning of each year for several years now and in 1980, mindful of the
approach of the year 1984, FNS asked me to write a thorough critique of
George Orwell's novel 1984.
I was reluctant. I remembered almost nothing of the book and said so -
but Denison Demac, the lovely young woman who is my contact at FNS, simply
sent me a copy of it and said, 'Read it.'
So I read it and found myself absolutely astonished at what I read. I
wondered how many people who talked about the novel so glibly had ever read
it; or if they had, whether they remembered it at all.
I felt I would have to write the critique if only to set people straight.
(I'm sorry; I love setting people straight.)
A. THE WRITING OF 1984
In 1949, a book entitled 1984 was published. It was written by Eric Arthur
Blair under the pseudonym of George Orwell.
The book attempted to show what life would be like in a world of total
evil, in which those controlling the government kept themselves in power by
brute force, by distorting the truth, by continually rewriting history, by
mesmerising the people generally.
This evil world was placed only thirty-five years in the future so that
even men who were already in their early middle age at the time the book was
published might live to see it if they lived out a normal lifetime.
I, for instance, was already a married man when the book appeared and yet
here we are less than four years away from that apocalyptic year (for '1984'
has become a year that is associated with dread because of Orwell's book),
and I am very likely to live to see it.
In this chapter, I will discuss the book, but first: Who was Blair/Orwell
and why was the book written?
Blair was born in 1903 into the status of a British gentleman. His father
was in the Indian civil service and Blair himself lived the life of a
British Imperial official. He went to Eton, served in Burma, and so on.
However, he lacked the money to be an English gentleman to the full.
Then, too, he didn't want to spend his time at dull desk jobs; he wanted to
be a writer. Thirdly, he felt guilty about his status in the upper class.
So he did in the late 1920s what so many well-to-do American young people
in the 1960s did. In short, he became what we would have called a 'hippie'
at a later time. He lived under slum conditions in London and Paris,
consorted with and identified with slum dwellers and vagrants, managed to
ease his conscience and, at the same time, to gather material for his
He also turned left wing and became a socialist, fighting with the
loyalists in Spain in the 1930s. There he found himself caught up in the
sectarian struggles between the various left-wing factions, and since he
believed in a gentlemanly English form of socialism, he was inevitably on
the losing side. Opposed to him were passionate Spanish anarchists,
syndicalists, and communists, who bitterly resented the fact that the
necessities of fighting the Franco fascists got in the way of their fighting
The communists, who were the best organised, won out and Orwell had to leave
Spain, for he was convinced that if he did not, he would be killed
From then on, to the end of his life, he carried on a private literary
war with the communists, determined to win in words the battle he had lost
During World War II, in which he was rejected for military service, he
was associated with the left wing of the British Labour party, but didn't
much sympathise with their views, for even their reckless version of
socialism seemed too well organised for him.
He wasn't much affected, apparently, by the Nazi brand of
totalitarianism, for there was no room within him except for his private war
with Stalinist communism. Consequently, when Great Britain was fighting for
its life against Nazism, and the Soviet Union fought as an ally in the
struggle and contributed rather more than its share in lives lost and in
resolute courage, Orwell wrote Animal Farm which was a satire of the Russian
Revolution and what followed, picturing it in terms of a revolt of barnyard
animals against human masters.
He completed Animal Farm in 1944 and had trouble finding a publisher
since it wasn't a particularly good time for upsetting the Soviets. As soon
as the war came to an end, however, the Soviet Union was fair game and
Animal Farm was published. It was greeted with much acclaim and Orwell
became sufficiently prosperous to retire and devote himself to his
That book described society as a vast world-wide extension of Stalinist
Russia in the 1930s, pictured with the venom of a rival left-wing sectarian.
Other forms of totalitarianism play a small role. There are one or two
mentions of the Nazis and of the Inquisition. At the very start, there is a
reference or two to Jews, almost as though they were going to prove the
objects of persecution, but that vanishes almost at once, as though Orwell
didn't want readers to mistake the villains for Nazis.
The picture is of Stalinism, and Stalinism only.
By the time the book came out in 1949, the Cold War was at its height.
The book therefore proved popular. It was almost a matter of patriotism in
the West to buy it and talk about it, and perhaps even to read parts of it,
although it is my opinion that more people bought it and talked about it
than read it, for it is a dreadfully dull book - didactic, repetitious, and
all but motionless.
It was most popular at first with people who leaned towards the
conservative side of the political spectrum, for it was clearly an
anti-Soviet polemic, and the picture of life it projected in the London of
1984 was very much as conservatives imagined life in the Moscow of 1949 to
During the McCarthy era in the United States, 1984 became increasingly
popular with those who leaned towards the liberal side of the political
spectrum, for it seemed to them that the United States of the early 1950s
was beginning to move in the direction of thought-control and that all the
viciousness Orwell had depicted was on its way towards us.
Thus, in an afterword to an edition published in paperback by New
American Library in 1961, the liberal psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich
Fromm concluded as follows:
'Books like Orwell's are powerful warnings, and it would be most
unfortunate if the reader smugly interpreted 1984 as another description of
Stalinist barbarism, and if he does not see that it means us, too.'
Even if Stalinism and McCarthyism are disregarded, however, more and more
Americans were becoming aware of just how 'big' the government was getting;
how high taxes were; how increasingly rules and regulations permeated
business and even ordinary life; how information concerning every facet of
private life was entering the files not only of government bureaux but of
private credit systems.
1984, therefore, came to stand not for Stalinism, or even for
dictatorship in general - but merely for government. Even governmental
paternalism seemed '1984ish' and the catch phrase 'Big Brother is watching
you' came to mean everything that was too big for the individual to control.
It was not only big government and big business that was a symptom of 1984
but big science, big labour, big anything.
In fact, so thoroughly has 1984-ophobia penetrated the consciousness of
many who have not read the book and have no notion of what it contains, that
one wonders what will happen to us after 31 December 1984. When New Year's
Day of 1985 arrives and the United States is still in existence and facing
very much the problems it faces today, how will we express our fears of
whatever aspect of life fills us with apprehension? What new date can we
invent to take the place of 1984?
Orwell did not live to see his book become the success it did. He did not
witness the way in which he made 1984 into a year that would haunt a whole
generation of Americans. Orwell died of tuberculosis in a London hospital in
January 1950, just a few months after the book was published, at the age of
forty-six. His awareness of imminent death may have added to the bitterness
of the book.
B. THE SCIENCE FICTION OF 1984
Many people think of 1984 as a science fiction novel, but almost the only
item about 1984 that would lead one to suppose this is the fact that it is
purportedly laid in the future. Not so! Orwell had no feel for the future,
and the displacement of the story is much more geographical than temporal.
The London in which the story is placed is not so much moved thirty-five
years forward in time, from 1949 to 1984, as it is moved a thousand miles
east in space to Moscow.
Orwell imagines Great Britain to have gone through a revolution similar
to the Russian Revolution and to have gone through all the stages that
Soviet development did. He can think of almost no variations on the theme.
The Soviets had a series of purges in the 1930s, so the Ingsoc (English
Socialism) had a series of purges in the 1950s.
The Soviets converted one of their revolutionaries, Leon Trotsky, into a
villain, leaving his opponent, Joseph Stalin, as a hero. The Ingsoc,
therefore, convert one of their revolutionaries, Emmanuel Goldstein, into a
villain, leaving his opponent, with a moustache like Stalin, as a hero.
There is no ability to make minor changes, even. Goldstein, like Trotsky,
has 'a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a
small goatee beard'. Orwell apparently does not want to confuse the issue by
giving Stalin a different name so he calls him merely 'Big Brother'.
At the very beginning of the story, it is made clear that television
(which was coming into existence at the time the book was written) served as
a continuous means of indoctrination of the people, for sets cannot be
turned off. (And, apparently, in a deteriorating London in which nothing
works, these sets never fail.)
The great Orwellian contribution to future technology is that the
television set is two-way, and that the people who are forced to hear and
see the television screen can themselves be heard and seen at all times and
are under constant supervision even while sleeping or in the bathroom.
Hence, the meaning of the phrase 'Big Brother is watching you'.
This is an extraordinarily inefficient system of keeping everyone under
control. To have a person being watched at all times means that some other
person must be doing the watching at all times (at least in the Orwellian
society) and must be doing so very narrowly, for there is a great
development of the art of interpreting gesture and facial expression.
One person cannot watch more than one person in full concentration, and
can only do so for a comparatively short time before attention begins to
wander. I should guess, in short, that there may have to be five watchers
for every person watched. And then, of course, the watchers must themselves
be watched since no one in the Orwellian world is suspicion-free.
Consequently, the system of oppression by two-way television simply will not
Orwell himself realised this by limiting its workings to the Party
members. The 'proles' (proletariat), for whom Orwell cannot hide his British
upper-class contempt, are left largely to themselves as subhuman. (At one
point in the book, he says that any prole that shows ability is killed - a
leaf taken out of the Spartan treatment of their helots
twenty-five hundred years ago.)
Furthermore, he has a system of volunteer spies in which children report
on their parents, and neighbours on each other. This cannot possibly work
well since eventually everyone reports everyone else and it all has to be
Orwell was unable to conceive of computers or robots, or he would have
placed everyone under non-human surveillance. Our own computers to some
extent do this in the IRS, in credit files, and so on, but that does not
take us towards 1984, except in fevered imaginations. Computers and tyranny
do not necessarily go hand in hand. Tyrannies have worked very well without
computers (consider the Nazis) and the most computerised nations in today's
world are also the least tyrannical.
Orwell lacks the capacity to see (or invent) small changes. His hero
finds it difficult in his world of 1984 to get shoelaces or razor blades. So
would I in the real world of the 1980s, for so many people use slip-on shoes
and electric razors.
Then, too, Orwell had the technophobic fixation that every technological
advance is a slide downhill. Thus, when his hero writes, he 'fitted a nib
into the penholder and sucked it to get the grease off. He does so 'because
of a feeling that the beautiful creamy paper deserved to be written on with
a real nib instead of being scratched with an ink-pencil'.
Presumably, the 'ink-pencil' is the ball-point pen that was coming into
use at the time that 1984 was being written. This means that Orwell
describes something as being written' with a real nib but being 'scratched'
with a ball-point. This is, however, precisely the reverse of the truth. If
you are old enough to remember steel pens, you will remember that they
scratched fearsomely, and you know ball-points don't.
This is not science fiction, but a distorted nostalgia for a past that
never was. I am surprised that Orwell stopped with the steel pen and that he
didn't have Winston writing with a neat goose quill.
Nor was Orwell particularly prescient in the strictly social aspects of
the future he was presenting, with the result that the Orwellian world of
1984 is incredibly old-fashioned when compared with the real world of the
Orwell imagines no new vices, for instance. His characters are all gin
hounds and tobacco addicts, and part of the horror of his picture of 1984 is
his eloquent description of the low quality of the gin and tobacco.
He foresees no new drugs, no marijuana, no synthetic hallucinogens. No
one expects an s.f. writer to be precise and exact in his forecasts, but
surely one would expect him to invent some differences.
In his despair (or anger), Orwell forgets the virtues human beings have.
All his characters are, in one way or another, weak or sadistic, or sleazy,
or stupid, or repellent. This may be how most people are, or how Orwell
wants to indicate they will all be under tyranny, but it seems to me that
under even the worst tyrannies, so far, there have been brave men and women
who have withstood the tyrants to the death and whose personal histories are
luminous flames in the surrounding darkness. If only because there is no
hint of this in 1984, it does not resemble the real world of the 1980s.
Nor did he foresee any difference in the role of women or any weakening
of the feminine stereotype of 1949. There are only two female characters of
importance. One is a strong, brainless 'prole' woman who is an endless
washerwoman, endlessly singing a popular song with words of the type
familiar in the 1930s and 1940s (at which Orwell shudders fastidiously as
'trashy', in blissful non-anticipation of hard rock).
The other is the heroine, Julia, who is sexually promiscuous (but is at
least driven to courage by her interest in sex) and is otherwise brainless.
When the hero, Winston, reads to her the book within a book that explains
the nature of the Orwellian world, she responds by falling asleep - but then
since the treatise Winston reads is stupefyingly soporific, this may be an
indication of Julia's good sense rather than the reverse.
In short, if 1984 must be considered science fiction, then it is very bad
C. THE GOVERNMENT OF 1984
Orwell's 1984 is a picture of all-powerful government, and it has helped
make the notion of 'big government' a very frightening one.
We have to remember, though, that the world of the late 1940s, during
which Orwell was writing his book, was one in which there had been, and
still were, big governments with true tyrants - individuals whose every
wish, however unjust, cruel or vicious, was law. What's more, it seemed as
though such tyrants were irremovable except by the chance of outside force.
Benito Mussolini of Italy, after twenty-one years of absolute rule, was
overthrown, but that was only because his country was suffering defeat in
Adolf Hitler of Germany, a far stronger and more brutal tyrant, ruled
with a steel hand for twelve years, yet even defeat did not, in itself,
bring about his overthrow. Though the area over which he ruled shrank and
shrank and shrank, and even though overwhelming armies of his adversaries
closed in from the east and west, he remained absolute tyrant over whatever
area he controlled - even when it was only over the bunker in which he
committed suicide. Until he removed himself, no one dared remove him. (There
were plots against him, to be sure, but they never worked, sometimes through
quirks of fate that seemed explainable only by supposing that someone down
there liked him.)
Orwell, however, had no time for either Mussolini or Hitler. His enemy
was Stalin, and at the time that 1984 was published, Stalin had ruled the
Soviet Union in a ribbreaking bear hug for twenty-five years, had survived a
terrible war in which his nation suffered enormous losses and yet was now
stronger than ever. To Orwell, it must have seemed that neither time nor
fortune could budge Stalin, but that he would live on forever with ever
increasing strength. - And that was how Orwell pictured Big Brother.
Of course, that was not the way it really was. Orwell didn't live long
enough to see it but Stalin died only three years after 1984 was published,
and it was not long after that that his regime was denounced as a tyranny
by - guess who - the Soviet leadership.
The Soviet Union is still the Soviet Union, but it is not Stalinist, and
the enemies of the state are no longer liquidated (Orwell uses 'vaporised'
instead, such small changes being all he can manage) with quite such
Again, Mao Tse-tung died in China, and while he himself has not been
openly denounced, his close associates, as 'the Gang of Four', were promptly
demoted from Divinity, and while China is still China, it is not Maoist any
Franco of Spain died in his bed and while, to his very last breath, he
remained the unquestioned leader he had been for nearly forty years,
immediately after that last breath, Fascism abruptly dwindled in Spain, as
it had in Portugal after Salazar's death.
In short, Big Brothers do die, or at least they have so far, and when
they die, the government changes, always for the milder.
This is not to say that new tyrants may not make themselves felt, but
they will die, too. At least in the real 1980s we have every confidence they
will and the undying Big Brother is not yet a real threat.
If anything, in fact, governments of the 1980s seem dangerously weak. The
advance of technology has put powerful weapons - explosives, machine guns,
fast cars into the hands of urban terrorists who can and do kidnap, hijack,
gun down, and take hostages with impunity while governments stand by more or
In addition to the immortality of Big Brother, Orwell presents two other
ways of maintaining an eternal tyranny.
First -,present someone or something to hate. In the Orwellian world it
was Emmanuel Goldstein for whom hate was built up and orchestrated in a
robotized mass function.
This is nothing new, of course. Every nation in the world has used
various neighbours for the purpose of hate. This sort of thing is so easily
handled and comes as such second nature to humanity that one wonders why
there have to be the organised hate drives in the Orwellian world.
It needs scarcely any clever psychological mass movements to make Arabs
hate Israelis and Greeks hate Turks and Catholic Irish hate Protestant
Irish - and vice versa in each case. To be sure, the Nazis organised mass
meetings of delirium that every participant seemed to enjoy, but it had no
permanent effect. Once the war moved on to German soil, the Germans
surrendered as meekly as though they had never Sieg-Heiled in their lives.
Second - rewrite history. Almost every one of the few individuals we meet
in 1984 has, as his job, the rapid rewriting of the past, the readjustment
of statistics, the overhauling of newspapers - as though anyone is going to
take the trouble to pay attention to the past anyway.
This Orwellian preoccupation with the minutiae of 'historical proof' is
typical of the political sectarian who is always quoting what has been said
and done in the past to prove a point to someone on the other side who is
always quoting something to the opposite effect that has been said and done.
As any politician knows, no evidence of any kind is ever required. It is
only necessary to make a statement - any statement - forcefully enough to
have an audience believe it. No one will check the lie against the facts,
and, if they do, they will disbelieve the facts. Do you think the German
people in 1939 pretended that the Poles had attacked them and started World
War II? No! Since they were told that was so, they believed it as seriously
as you and I believe that they attacked the Poles.
To be sure, the Soviets put out new editions of their Encyclopaedia in
which politicians rating a long biography in earlier editions are suddenly
omitted entirely, and this is no doubt the germ of the Orwellian notion, but
the chances of carrying it as far as is described in 1984 seem to me to be
nil - not because it is beyond human wickedness, but because it is totally
Orwell makes much of 'Newspeak' as an organ of repression - the
conversion of the English language into so limited and abbreviated an
instrument that the very vocabulary of dissent vanishes. Partly he got the
notion from the undoubted habit of abbreviation. He gives examples of
'Communist International' becoming 'Comintern' and 'Geheime Staatspolizei'
becoming 'Gestapo', but that is not a modern totalitarian invention. 'Vulgus
mobile' became 'mob'; 'taxi cabriolet' became 'cab'; 'quasi-stellar radio
source' became 'quasar'; 'light amplification by stimulated emission of
radiation' became 'laser' and so on. There is no sign that such compressions
of the language have ever weakened it as a mode of expression.
As a matter of fact, political obfuscation has tended to use many words
rather than few, long words rather than short, to extend rather than to
reduce. Every leader of inadequate education or limited intelligence hides
behind exuberant inebriation of loquacity.
Thus, when Winston Churchill suggested the development of 'Basic English'
as an international language (something which undoubtedly also contributed
to 'Newspeak'), the suggestion was stillborn.
We are therefore in no way approaching Newspeak in its condensed form,
though we have always had Newspeak in its extended form and always will
We also have a group of young people among us who say things like 'Right
on, man, you know. It's like he's got it all together, you know, man. I
mean, like you know -' and so on for five minutes when the word that the
young people are groping for is 'Huh?'
That, however, is not Newspeak, and it has always been with us, too. It
is something which in Oldspeak is called 'inarticulacy' and it is not what
Orwell had in mind.
D. THE INTERNATIONAL SITUATION OF 1984
Although Orwell seemed, by and large, to be helplessly stuck in the world of
1949, in one respect at least he showed himself to be remarkably prescient,
and that was in foreseeing the tripartite split of the world of the 1980s.
The international world of 1984 is a world of three superpowers: Oceania,
Eurasia, and Eastasia - and that fits in, very roughly, with the three
actual superpowers of the 1980s: the United States, the Soviet Union, and
Oceania is a combination of the United States and the British Empire.
Orwell, who was an old Imperial civil servant, did not seem to notice that
the British Empire was in its last throes in the late 1940s and was about to
dissolve. He seems to suppose, in fact, that the British Empire is the
dominant member of the British-American combination.
At least, the entire action takes place in London and phrases such as
'the United States' and 'Americans' are rarely, if ever, mentioned. But
then, this is very much in the fashion of the British spy novel in which,
ever since World War II, Great Britain (currently about the eighteenth
strongest military and economic power in the world) is set up as the great
adversary of the Soviet Union, or of China, or of some invented
international conspiracy, with the United States either never mentioned or
reduced to the small courtesy appearance of an occasional CIA agent.
Eurasia is, of course, the Soviet Union, which Orwell assumes will have
absorbed the whole European continent. Eurasia, therefore, includes all of
Europe, plus Siberia, and its population is 95 per cent European by any
standard. Nevertheless, Orwell describes the Eurasians as 'solid-looking men
with expressionless Asiatic faces'. Since Orwell still lives in a time when
'European' and 'Asiatic' are equivalent to ' 'hero' and 'villain', it is
impossible to inveigh against the Soviet Union with the proper emotion if it
is not thought of as 'Asiatic'. This comes under the heading of what
Orwellian Newspeak calls 'double-think', something that Orwell, like any
human being, is good at.
It may be, of course, that Orwell is thinking not of Eurasia, or the
Soviet Union, but of his great bÍte noire, Stalin. Stalin is a Georgian, and
Georgia, lying south of the Caucasus mountains, is, by strict geographic
considerations, part of Asia.
Eastasia is, of course, China and various dependent nations.
Here is prescience. At the time Orwell was writing 1984, the Chinese
communists had not yet won control of the country and many (in the United
States, in particular) were doing their best to see that the anti-Communist,
Chiang Kai-shek, retained control. Once the communists won, it became part
of the accepted credo of the West that the Chinese would be under thorough
Soviet control and that China and the Soviet Union would form a monolithic
Orwell not only foresaw the communist victory (he saw that victory
everywhere, in fact) but also foresaw that Russia and China would not form a
monolithic bloc but would be deadly enemies.
There, his own experience as a Leftist sectarian may have helped him. He
had no Rightist superstitions concerning Leftists as unified and
indistinguishable villains. He knew they would fight each other as fiercely
over the most trifling points of doctrine as would the most pious
He also foresaw a permanent state of war among the three; a condition of
permanent stalemate with the alliances ever-shifting, but always two against
the strongest. This was the old-fashioned 'balance of power' system which
was used in ancient Greece, in medieval Italy, and in early modern Europe.
Orwell's mistake lay in thinking there had to be actual war to keep the
merry-go-round of the balance of power in being. In fact, in one of the more
laughable parts of the book, he goes on and on concerning the necessity of
permanent war as a means of consuming the world's production of resources
and thus keeping the social stratification of upper, middle, and lower
classes in being. (This sounds like a very Leftist explanation of war as the
result of a conspiracy worked out with great difficulty.)
In actual fact, the decades since 1945 have been remarkably war-free as
compared with the decades before it. There have been local wars in
profusion, but no general war. But then, war is not required as a desperate
device to consume the world's resources. That can be done by such other
devices as endless increase in population and in energy use, neither of
which Orwell considers.
Orwell did not foresee any of the significant economic changes that have
taken place since World War II. He did not foresee the role of oil or its
declining availability or its increasing price, or the escalating power of
those nations who control it. I don't recall his mentioning the word 'oil'.
But perhaps it is close enough to mark Orwellian prescience here, if we
substitute 'cold war' for 'war'. There has been, in fact, a more or less
continual 'cold war' that has served to keep employment high and solve some
short-term economic problems (at the cost of creating long-term greater
ones). And this cold war is enough to deplete resources.
Furthermore, the alliances shifted as Orwell foresaw and very nearly as
suddenly. When the United States seemed all-powerful, the Soviet Union and
China were both vociferously anti-American and in a kind of alliance. As
American power decreased, the Soviet Union and China fell apart and, for a
while, each of the three powers inveighed against the other two equally.
Then, when the Soviet Union came to seem particularly powerful, a kind of
alliance sprang up between the United States and China, as they co-operated
in vilifying the Soviet Union, and spoke softly of each other.
In 1984 every shift of alliance involved an orgy of history rewriting. In
real life, no such folly is necessary. The public swings from side to side
easily, accepting the change in circumstance with no concern for the past at
all. For instance, the Japanese, by the 1950s, had changed from unspeakable
villains to friends, while the Chinese moved in the opposite direction with
no one bothering to wipe out Pearl Harbour. No one cared, for goodness'
Orwell has his three great powers voluntarily forgo the use of nuclear
bombs, and to be sure such bombs have not been used in war since 1945. That,
however, may be because the only powers with large nuclear arsenals, the
United States and the Soviet Union, have avoided war with each other. Were
there actual war, it is extremely doubtful that one side or the other would
not finally feel it necessary to push the button. In that respect, Orwell
perhaps falls short of reality.
London does, however, occasionally suffer a missile strike, which sounds
very much like a V-1 or V-2 weapon of 1944, and the city is in a 1945-type
shambles. Orwell cannot make 1984 very different from 1944 in this respect.
Orwell, in fact, makes it clear that by 1984, the universal communism of
the three superpowers has choked science and reduced it to uselessness
except in those areas where it is needed for war. There is no question but
that the nations are more eager to invest in science where war applications
are in clear view but, alas, there is no way of separating war from peace
where applications are in question.
Science is a unit, and everything in it could conceivably be related to
war and destruction. Science has therefore not been choked off but continues
not only in the United States and Western Europe and Japan, but also in the
Soviet Union and in China. The advances of science are too numerous to
attempt to list, but think of lasers and computers as 'war weapons' with
infinite peaceful applications.
To summarise, then: George Orwell in 1984 was, in my opinion, engaging in
a private feud with Stalinism, rather that attempting to forecast the
future. He did not have the science fictional knack of foreseeing a
plausible future and, in actual fact, in almost all cases, the world of 1984
bears no relation to the real world of the 1980s.
The world may go communist, if not by 1984, then by some not very much
later date; or it may see civilisation destroyed. If this happens, however,
it will happen in a fashion quite different from that depicted in 1984 and
if we try to prevent either eventuality by imagining that 1984 is accurate,
then we will be defending ourselves against assaults from the wrong
direction and we will lose.