No such thing as a benevolent dictatorship: Orwell

What does the overthrow of the elected government in Egypt by the military mean? Wouldn't it be interesting to hear what George Orwell had to say about it? 

This month the New York Review of Books helpfully publishes an old letter of Orwell's, to leading critic and thinker Dwight MacDonald, on a related subject: Dictatorship. 

Orwell wrote, regarding what he meant by Animal Farm:

"Re. your query about Animal Farm. Of course I intended it primarily as a satire on the Russian revolution. But I did mean it to have a wider application in so much that I meant that that kind of revolution (violent conspiratorial revolution, led by unconsciously power-hungry people) can only lead to a change of masters. I meant the moral to be that revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how to chuck out their leaders as soon as the latter have done their job."

When "the leaders have done their job?" When has that ever happened in Eygpt?

No matter. Orwell concludes:

"What I was trying to say was, “You can’t have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictat[or]ship."

Seems as if the Eygptisan people are still trying to make  a revolution themselves. 

Bonus item: Ever wondered why Eric Blair changed his name, when he began writing books, to George Orwell? Maria Popova, of Brain Pickings, says she knows:

When Eric Arthur Blair was getting ready to publish his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London, he decided to use a pen name so his family wouldn’t be embarrassed by his time in poverty. He chose the name George Orwell to reflect his love of English tradition and landscape. George is the patron saint of England and the River Orwell, a popular sailing spot, was a place he loved to visit.

Here's a painting of the River Orwell from 1748, giving us some idea why he might have loved it. 


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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