1984, a novel written by George Orwell in 1949, was an extremely controversial topic in the past and maintained its reputation into today. The famous Orwell novel predicted life at the year 1984 however we are not seeing signs of his book until present day 2009. In his book Eric Blair (Orwells real name) warns the reader of the dangerous future where a totalitarian government rules the country and eventually humans will lead to their own demise. even if he had never set pen to paper the essential crime Thoughtcrime they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you (17). Although the book seems severe by Thought Crimes and Face Crimes the world is inching closer to developing into the fantasy world of 1984. Leaders like Fidel Castro, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, and other communist leaders are exceedingly comparable to 1984 in multiple ways. Each leader has complete control over their country and if people decide to revolt or believe against the government the outcome is quite similar in real life and the novel. In the book the person would be vaporized while in the real world the person would be killed but both resulting in death. Most of the communist dictators portray the same ideals except one leader in Russia who was known as Mikhail Gorbachev. Mikhail Gorbachev was born on March 2, 1931 in Stavropol, Southern Russia. He spent his early life in an extremely poor peasant family and experienced a tough time growing up because of Josef Stalin, the totalitarian dictator at the time. Through out his teenage life Gorbachev was one of the top scholars in high school and at the Moscow State University. He also exceeded on the field. For example Mikhail won the award Order of the Red Banner of Labor for his excellent work in the field in 1947. While attending Moscow State University he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and became an exceptionally active member in social and political causes. After university Gorbachev gradually worked his way up in the hierarchy of Russia eventually reaching the Politburo in 1979. The Politburo has the highest authority in the Soviet Union. Soon after Gorbachev was named the Partys first leader after the October Revolution in 1917 he came into power while the USSR was in shambles. Unlike the other communist leaders Gorbachev brought the USSR back on its feet. Therefore, Mikhail Gorbachev was the exact opposite of the novel 1984 by glasnost, perestroika, and his anti-alcohol campaign.
The first crisis Gorbachev dealt with was the dreadful economy. He realized the economy was becoming decreasingly worse and would eventually lead to bankruptcy. Therefore, he enacted a reform policy designed to transform and restructure the economy in 1986. The reform policy was called perestroika which translates to restructuring. Gorbachev and his supporters permitted an easing of government price controls on some goods, more independence for state enterprises, and the setting up of profit-seeking private cooperatives to provide personal services for consumers (A History of Western Society 1036). Although perestroika sounded like a good idea, the reform policy was not successful. He attempted to eliminate poverty in the USSR by allowing the poor to get jobs in factories, restaurants, and other jobs which no one desired to have. Also, Gorbachev aimed at eliminating sex, drugs, and fighting by the poor. Next, Perestroika was contrastingly different then George Orwells novel. Throughout the novel the inner Party demonstrated an indifferent attitude towards the proletarians which is the lowest class of people. They were born, they grew up in the gutters, they went to work at twelve, they passed through a brief blossoming period of beauty and sexual desire, they married at twenty, they were middle-aged at thirty, they died, for the most part, at sixty. Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and, above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds (Orwell 71). The Inner Party forbid anyone besides the proles to have sex, drink alcohol, and view the section in the paper called Pornosec, the sub-section of the Fiction Department which turned out cheap pornography for distribution among the proles. It was nicknamed Muck House by the people who worked in it, she remarked. There she had remained for a year, helping to produce booklets in sealed packets with titles like Spanking Stories or One Night in a Girls' School, to be bought furtively by proletarian youths who were under the impression that they were buying something illegal (Orwell 112). While Gorbachev cared about everyone equally the Inner Party ignored the proles completely. For example in every house they had telescreens watching peoples every move except in the proletarians house. Gorbachevs perestroika was much different then the novel however Mikhails glasnost contrasted even more.
The second dilemma Gorbachev needed to fix for the survival of the Soviet Union was to control the censorship and lies from the USSRs government. After the multiple years of oppressive rulers like Stalin, Brezhnev, and Cherenkov killing and telling false information to all of the Soviet Union, Mikhail enacted another policy called glasnost. Glasnost translates to openness and its main goal was to reduce the corruption of the communist Party and the Soviet government, and moderate the abuse of administrative power in the central committee. Also, glasnost provided the citizens of the USSR a new idea of freedom of speech. A new idea of freedom of speech reduced the censorship in radio, television, publishing, and other media. Even though, the policy had multiple good points it also threatened the power of the high officials and authority figures because glasnost dismissed the people who spoke out. Since many party members did not agree with free speech, over half of the party was replaced by Gorbachev. In summation Gorbachev wanted the government to start telling the truth and reduce the amount of lies told to the USSRs citizens. However, Mikhails idea of glasnost would not go over well with the Party and Big Brother. During the novel the reader learns that Big Brother alters the facts and speeches in order to always be right. For example Big Brother has an entire office in the Ministry of Truth that corrects and changes the facts when Big Brother tells them to. Winstons job revolves around changing facts and stories to please the boss. Another way the Party demonstrates not being honest is when they eliminate the past. They eliminate people from existence and events that took place. As a result of them getting rid of the past people do not remember their childhood and anything before the Party took control. Gorbachevs openness and truthfulness would irritate Big Brother and The Party but Mikhails view of alcohol was very different then the book.
Another significant way Mikhail Gorbachev impacted the USSR was his anti-alcoholic campaign. Gorbachev instituted his anti-alcohol campaign in 1985 and his goal was to decrease the amount of alcohol consumed and teach the Soviet people the reward of moderation. He expressed how without alcohol there life at home with their families would be better; give them more advancement in their jobs, and better overall health would transpire without alcohol. The campaign worked at first but over time the plan failed miserably. Eventually after the plan failed resentment toward the leadership, worsening health issues, creating illegal alcohol production markets, and increasing the budget deficit took place. Alcohol in the USSR became increasingly worse during the Brezhnev era and until Mikhail dealt with the serious problem people viewed alcohol as acceptable. The Inner Party in 1984 felt alcohol was incredibly acceptable for the proletarians. Alcohol was their way of brain washing the poor and preventing them from overthrowing the government since they were the largest amount of people. "Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious" (Orwell 74). The Party realizes that the proles have the ability to form an insurrecting but with alcohol, gambling, and sex they will never become conscious and realize that. The difference between the novel and Gorbachev was that Mikhail wanted to help the poor and in the book the Party could care less about the poor.
1984 and Mikhail Gorbachev are very different because glasnost, perestroika, and his alcohol campaign. Glasnost was Gorbachevs attempt to become honest in the government and the idea of freedom of speech. The Party did not care about freedom of speech and only believed what they said. They would constantly lie to the citizens and make false data. Perestroika was the restructuring of the economy in the USSR and helping out the poor. Big Brother showed no concern toward the poor by letting them have sex and gamble and not placing telescreens in the proletarians area. Gorbachevs alcoholic campaign tried to diminish the amount of alcohol consumed by the poor. In the book the Party promoted the use of alcohol to brainwash the proles and prevent them from revolting against them. Although in the world most communist leaders rule their country like the Big Brother ruled England. However, the purpose of the book is to warn the world from turning into the 1984 fantasy land.
Kreis, Steven. Perestroika Defined. The History Guide. 2001. 22 May. 2008 http://www.historyguide.org/Europe/perestroika.html
McKay, Hill, Buckler. A History of Western Society. Chapter 31, pg 1036-1037. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.
Tatyana Tolstaya. Mikhail Gorbachev. http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/gorbachev.html. 5/21/09.