Letter from Joseph Stalin to George Orwell
Dear Comrade Orwell,
First, I would like to congratulate you on the impressive success of your novel, 1984. I obtained a copy of the book from one of my secret agents, who informed me that it is supremely popular in Europe right now. The young man managed to translate it into Russian for me, before I, unfortunately, had to have him executed. You see, the ideas in this book were too strong and corruptive to have them floating about in his young head. It will be necessary to eliminate anyone who currently resides in the Soviet Union who has been exposed to the book. I cannot risk a bold competitor using the ideas in this novel to overthrow me.
I must say, I love your invention, “Newspeak.” I have tried something like that in Soviet Russia but Russian is a much more beautiful and complex language than English. The three slogans you chose for the Party that decorate the face of the Ministry of Truth, however, I thought were wonderful and I am planning on stealing them and placing them all over the Soviet Union. “War is Peace” (page 4) will go far in helping my propaganda ministers in convincing the people that peace can only be achieved through the ruthless crushing of our enemies, and the deliberate and quiet infiltration of the West; and through hardship the proletarians suffer as our country works tirelessly to become a great industrial nation.
“Freedom Is Slavery” also pleased me greatly, for most of humanity is too stupid to rule itself. Only in blind allegiance to me, their Fearless Leader, can people be “free” to be entirely stupid. Which goes hand in hand with the concept of “Ignorance is Strength!”
I had Trotsky, that traitorous scum, erased from all photographs (as well as anyone else who offended my sensibilities), but it never occurred to me to show anti-Trotsky films. The way you described the People’s Enemy, Goldstein, was simply brilliant (Page 13). A few moments of good, solid Hating! That is what the people need. I have tried something like that in my show trials (it was much easier than you would assume, getting those idiots to confess to crimes they could not possibly have committed!); but I never considered using an actor to impersonate Trotsky committing violent crimes against society. “The dull rhythmic tramp of the soldiers’ boots formed the background to Goldstein’s bleating voice.” (page 13) Absolutely brilliant!
It had also never occurred to me to use video to terrify people, besides the obvious propaganda films, so that it becomes impossible for them to start a rebellion against me. I always went the way of phone-taps because it is untraceable, and much harder to start an uprising if people cannot speak to each other without the fear that their conversation is being heard and recorded. A closed circuit TV that has the ability to film the area in front of it while showing pro-Stalinist commercials and videos would be revolutionary. I must credit you with the idea, because without your “telescreens” it would have been hard to imagine. Although I must say, I would not allow anyone to turn them off, even if they were members of the “inner party” of the Soviet Union. I feel that is a flaw in your plotline. No sensible ruler of a country would risk having the people closest to him starting revolutions or attempting to take over his government, so allowing them the tiniest bit of freedom would be a cause for suspicion. If the person were truly a member of the inner party, what could he possibly have to hide? They should have no reason to turn off the telescreens, and if they did I would immediately have them sent away (in my case to Siberia to die in the work camps).
I do imagine devices resembling your telescreens would be more effective than wire-tapping. I plan on recruiting the best minds, like Albert Einstein, to come work for me in the near future. That will make manufacturing these telescreens much easier.
Unfortunately I have also yet to perfect the NKVD’s ability to infiltrate people’s minds and penetrate their deepest thoughts and secrets. My ultimate goal is to have a brainwashing center, similar to that of the Ministry of Love and Room 101. The cage containing the rats — Winston’s worst fear (Page 285) is something I will have to adapt to my peoples’ needs, because, come to think of it, Russians have grown so used to rats that they barely fear them at all. Nevertheless, when I have control and insight in to their minds, I will be able to present them with their greatest fear, until they break like twigs. I have tried psychics as a means of reading people’s minds, though this did not turn out to be effective. Psychics, I’m sorry to say, have no credibility as weapons of mass destruction either, though we were hoping to make strides in that area. They are much more effective as charlatans, or as workers in my Siberian camps. There were a few that seemed to have some sort of talent, but some of the things they said were too exact, so I sent them to Siberia too. I couldn’t have them reading my thoughts now, could I?
Lastly, I have an offer to make you. I’m sure you would be honored to come to work for me, as anyone would, and I have decided to offer you a job. If you come to the Soviet Union you could help me enforce and improve on the ideas that came to me because of your novel. I would make you Supreme Vice-President of Foreign and Internal Affairs, pertaining to your uncanny ability to understand the need to control the Soviet people and restrict their freedom. If you would kindly meet me in front of the Lubyanka building (it is a large yellow building, very hard to miss, on Dzerzhinksy Square) we could discuss your future in Russia. I have appointed various NKVD agents to post themselves around your home, in order to properly escort you to Russia. They will bring you to the Lubyanka, so there is no need to fret about directions.