75 years ago, in August 1946, the English writer George Orwell (1903-1950) published his famous novel "Animal Farm" in the United States, and it was a huge success, selling more than half a million copies in its first year.

Three years later, he published the novel "1984", which belongs to the literature of dystopia, and it achieved greater success.

In the years that followed, Orwell's writings left an indelible mark on American thought and culture, and sales of "Animal Farm" and "1984" jumped in 2013 after whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked classified NSA documents. Selling on Amazon after Donald Trump's presidential inauguration in 2017.

In his article on the Conversation website, writer Mark Satta says that, as a professor of philosophy, he is interested in the continuing importance of Orwell's ideas in the present time, including those related to totalitarianism and socialism.

early work

George Orwell was the pen name of Eric Blair.

Born in 1903 in colonial India, Blair later moved to England, where he attended elite schools. After completing school, he entered the British Civil Service and worked in Burma (present-day Myanmar).

At the age of 24, Orwell returned to England to become a writer.

During the 1930s Orwell had modest success as an essayist, journalist, and novelist.

He also served as a volunteer soldier with a left-wing militia that fought on behalf of the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War.

During the conflict, Orwell experienced firsthand how political propaganda can shape political consciousness and construct a false narrative of events by following the -inaccurate-reports of events he experienced.

Orwell later summarized the purpose of all his writing from the Spanish Civil War onwards, saying "every line I have written since 1936 has been, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism".

Orwell does not specify in this passage what he meant by totalitarianism or democratic socialism, but some of his other works show how he understood these terms.

What is inclusivity?

For Orwell, totalitarianism was a political system focused on imposing power and control over all aspects of life.

Orwell's totalitarian stance was embodied in O'Brien's character in "1984", a fictional character who presented him as a powerful government official who uses torture and manipulation to impose power over the thoughts and actions of the protagonist, Winston Smith.

Remarkably, O'Brien treats his desire for power as an end in itself.

O'Brien represents power and authority only for the sake of power (and not for any greater purpose), and O'Brien was a member of the "Inner Party" masquerading as a member of the Brotherhood (Revolutionary Resistance), to deceive the members of the Resistance into a trap.

Many of Orwell's strong insights relate to his anti-totalitarian stance.

In his 1941 essay "The Lion and the Rhino", Orwell wrote of "the totalitarian idea that there is no such thing as law, there is only force" in other words that laws can limit the power of a ruler, and totalitarianism seeks to blur the limits of law from through the unrestricted exercise of power.

Similarly, in his 1942 essay Looking Back at the Spanish War, Orwell argues that totalitarianism must deny the existence of impartial facts and objective truth.

Orwell defines freedom and truth as "guarantees" against totalitarianism, since the exercise of freedom and recognition of truth are actions incompatible with the total central control required by totalitarianism.

Orwell understood that totalitarianism could be found in the political right and left.

For Orwell, both Nazism and communism were totalitarian.

Orwell's work, in the author's view, challenges us to resist allowing leaders to engage in totalitarian behavior, regardless of political affiliation.

It also reminds us that some of our best tools for resisting totalitarianism are telling the facts and preserving freedom.

What is democratic socialism?

In his 1937 book The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell wrote that socialism meant "justice and freedom".

And that justice he is referring to goes beyond just economic justice, to include social and political justice.

Orwell explains what he means by socialism in the essay "The Lion and the Rhino".

According to him, socialism required "approximate equality of income (which should not be more than approximate), political democracy, and the abolition of all hereditary privileges, especially in education".

In explaining what he means by "rough equality of income", Orwell says later in the same article that income equality should not be greater than a ratio of about 1 to 10. This means that Orwell can find it ethical for a CEO to earn 10 times as much. His employees are paid, but he does not earn 300 times more, as the average CEO in the United States does today, according to studies.

But in his description of socialism, Orwell discusses more than economic inequality.

Orwell's writings indicate that his preferred concept of socialism also requires "political democracy".

As scholar David Doan noted, Orwell distinguished between "two notions of democracy".

The first concept refers to the political power that rests with the common people.

The second relates to classical liberal liberties, such as freedom of thought.

Both concepts of democracy seem closely related to what Orwell meant by democratic socialism.

For Orwell, democratic socialism is a political system that provides social and economic equality while firmly preserving personal freedom.

The author believes that Orwell's description of democratic socialism and his acknowledgment of the various forms socialism can take remains relevant today because the American political debate on socialism often overlooks many of the nuances Orwell presents to the subject.

For example, Americans often confuse socialism with communism.

Orwell helps clarify the difference between these terms.

With high levels of economic inequality, political assaults on truth and renewed concerns about totalitarianism, Orwell's ideas are as relevant to reality now as they were 75 years ago.

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