After reading both Anthem by Ayn Rand and Animal Farm by George Orwell one message sticks out. That message is a warning against fanaticism. They work as cautionary tales of what happens when people blindly follow the rhetoric spewed by skilled orators instead of thinking for yourself. These books use the talking points of collectivist ideologies juxtaposed with the harsh realities that kind of mindset leads to in order to show how the extremes of collectivism are a complete failure.
Collectivism, primary the extremes of collectivism witnessed in these books are morally bankrupt. The similarities of both the book Animal Farm and historically in real life are almost ubiquitous. To begin with, we can look at the emergence of the new ruling a party. A group of people formed by the impoverished and downtrodden, initially with noble goals, overthrow their oppressors and establish a collectivist government. In the book, this government is its namesake Animal Farm while in the real world it was the Soviet Union. The parallels don’t end there, they both also share a similar fall from grace for near the same reason. In the book, it begins after Napoleon Silences his main detractor Snowball by threatening his life with a hoard of rabid dogs to force him into hiding. By doing this, along with the outright killing of more minor but prevalent political competition, he managed to obtain near-absolute power in government. This is largely due to no one else with nearly enough gravitas or charisma to challenge him. In much the same way Stalin killed, imprison, or otherwise silenced political rivals during the Great purge of1936 through 38 to be sure no one was able to challenge his rule or authority over the Soviet Union. Both Animal Farm and the Soviet Union led to dictators assuming direct and absolute control over their country. This power eventually and inevitably leads to the perpetual death and suffering of their people in the case the Soviet Union, to quote RJ Rummel “the Soviet Union appears the greatest megamurderer of all, apparently killing near 61,000,000 people. Stalin himself is responsible for almost 43,000,000 of these.” With Communism as a whole being responsible for the death of “something like 110,000,000, or near two-thirds of all those killed by all governments,
“ (Rummel)While these statistics are horrid collectivist governments also have a more subversive but equally detestable form of oppression, such examples can be found in the book Anthem.
While the ruling party in Anthem is not as overtly oppressive as the one found in Animal Farm it instead uses forms of subterfuge such as social conditioning and education to indoctrinate people into their ideology. Equality is a victim of this indoctrination and through him, we see the immense peer pressure that enforces the herd mentality, from birth until his eventual revolution against the system he was at the mercy of his society and government, not due to their strength of arms but rather their utter control of his mind. This form of control not exclusive to the realm of fiction. examples exist in the real world as well, to quote Barbara Geddes
“All authoritarian governments attempt to control the flow of news and information to the public” he further explains the actions taken place by Brazil in the 1960 and 1970 that included “government-controlled media depicted the military regime in glowing terms,” “asserted
firm control over labor unions” and “replaced the existing political parties with two new government-sponsored parties.” (Geddes and Zaller ) Again, there are obvious similarities with the social structure seen in Anthem to an even greater extrem. No information in opposition of the what the Council tells you is allowed, political dissidents and civil disobedience, two things necessary for a democracy is almost non-existent with the government only having a poor parody of elections where your eligibility of ever running was decided in your teens. Assuming that you did manage to become a leader, it would overall be pointless. progress has all but stagnated due largely by the mantra “the Council of Scholars has said that there are no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things.” (rand) This statement encapsulates the state of stagnation the Council has permitted and in fact enforces in the name of social cohesion. To them, technologic progress delegitimizes their authority and will lead to harming social cohesion. So, the role of a counselor isn’t to bring change, rather it is to prevent it. This is because advancement in technology, both in real life and in the book, have adverse effects on a totalitarian government’s control if it gets into the public’s hands.
These stories were warning us about threats from a bygone era. The Communist dictatorships like the Soviet Union that both authors took inspiration from where fell decades ago before the turn of the millennium. Yet both books still tell an important message for today. The books are not just warnings against collectivist governments they also exist as a warning against collectivist mindsets as a whole. Ultimately, they are promoting individualism. They want people to think for themselves and that is a timeless message.That is a timeless message.
Anthem By Ayn Rand
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Sources of Popular Support for Authoritarian Regimes by Barbara Geddes and John Zaller
How many did Communism Murder by R.J Rummel