It was a tragic absurdity. The tyranny of the five year plan. 2+2=5 or 5 in 4! was posited as a new, even refreshing economic logic. The numbers don”t lie! Culture and history could now impinge on the manner in which arithmetic was practiced. Arithmetic was negotiable, flexible, more human? 2+2 becomes irrational to the point of being a poetical act, an act of defiance, revolutionary. An act of fancy, but one which has a profound effect of establishing a certainty that is disquieting, since it can be endlessly reconceptualized as an ingenious proposition, a model of truth or as poetic act instead of a mundane mathematical conclusion.If the logic of Big Brother is arbitrary and imposed is meaningless so long as the numbers, like the stars, align to achieve the desired result of control.
“It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later” says the hero Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984: “the logic of their position demanded it” . The mathematics of power become all powerful the when people no longer know how to resist: “after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that gravity works?”. Cooking the books is nothing new. How arbitrary is GDP, unemployment etc. Paralyzed by a denial of logical reality, the non-individual can no longer dissociate themselves from this gamed fiction so they could delineate difference. It means in a world in a world crazed by a manipulation of numbers, everybody is quite the same.Everyone living a virtual reality within the game. There is no otherness they can appeal to in order to create a critical distance, so superficial distinctions have to created and marketed…
In Assignment in Utopia, which George Orwell read soon after its publication in 1937, at the height of the Soviet purge trials,Eugene Lyons reported that electric signs were affixed to Moscow buildings with the slogan “2+2=5″ exhorting the populace to work hard and complete the then current five year plan in only four years.
The myth of utopia lies as deep in Western culture as that of the Garden of Eden, but lay dormant, at least politically, until Thomas More added topical realism to it in the sixteenth-century. As an early humanist, More raised the question of whether utopia could be transferred from the next world to this. As a Christian, he realized that after the Fall and before salvation the answer could not be in the affirmative. A utopia of happiness and boredom-Like Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights- was literally no place, because of the nature of man and his exposure to the Christian experience; but by 1984 rational idealism has eradicated experience. All ideologies are to some degree utopic, whether from a spiritual point of departure or a political. To the extent that they are rational and programmatic, they are subject to disillusion and to perversion of power for its own sake.
More’s Utopia already contains traces of what Orwell would articulate in the twentieth-century:Wherever you are, you always have to work. There’s never any excuse for idleness. There are also no wine-taverns, no ale-houses, no brothels, no opportunities for seduction, no secret meeting-places. Everyone has his eye on you, so you’re practically forced to get on with your job, and make some proper use of your spare time. Read More: http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/wooda/149/149syllabus4summary.html
More was a humanist trying to preserve Christian values- although his views on moderation and a “middle-way” echo Maimonides-, and Orwell was a socialist trying to preserve libertarian values.Later utopians, especially those late Victorians, like H.G. Wells, bemused by the deceptively liberating potentialities of technology, were not so wise. They failed to realize that human experience and philosophical perfection are incompatible. Orwell did, and he turned utopia into dystopia. Like Lewis Carroll, he stepped through the looking glass and parodied rational beliefs to their logical and absurd conclusions. Technology, especially the new technology of communications and management, becomes a tyrannical thought controlling tool instead of liberating force in 1984.
Eugene Lyons on the Ukranian famine: I was not the first Moscow observer to remark that God seems to be on the side of the atheists. What the Kremlin would have prayed for, had it believed in prayer, was perfect weather, and that is what it received that spring and summer: perfect weather and bumper crops. The fields had been planted under the aegis of the newly established Politotdyels (Political Departments) with unlimited authority over the peasants. Food rations barely sufficient to sustain life had been distributed only to those actually at work
he fields. Red Army detachments in many places had been employed to guard seed and to prevent hungry peasants from devouring the green shoots of the new harvest. In the midst of the famine, the planting proceeded, and the crops came up strong and plenteous. The dead were buried—for the living there would be bread enough and to spare in the following winter.
Belatedly the world had awakened to the famine situation. We were able to write honestly that “to speak of famine now is ridiculous.” We did not always bother to add that we had failed to speak of it or at best mumbled incomprehensibly then) when it was not ridiculous. Cardinal Innitzer, Archbishop of Vienna, made the first of his sensational statements about Soviet agrarian conditions on August 20, when those conditions were already being mitigated. Certain anti—Soviet newspapers in England and America began to write about the famine at about the time it was ended, and continued to write about it long after it had become history: their facts were on the whole correct, but their tenses were badly mixed. The most rigorous censorship in all of Soviet Russia’s history had been successful—it had concealed the catastrophe until it was ended, thereby bringing confusion, doubt, contradiction into the whole subject. Years after the event—when no Russian communist in his senses any longer concealed the magnitude of the famine—the question whether there had been a famine at all was still being disputed in the outside world!
In the autumn, the Soviet press was exultant. Lazar Kaganovich was given most of the credit for the successful harvest. It was his mind that invented the Political Departments to lead collectivized agriculture, his iron hand that applied Bolshevik mercilessness. Now that a healing flood of grain was inundating the famished land, the secrecy gradually gave way. Increasingly with every passing month Russian officials ceased to deny the obvious. Soviet journalists who had been in the afflicted areas now told me personally such details of the tragedy as not even the eager imaginations of Riga and Warsaw journalists had been able to project. They were able to speak in the past tense, so that their accents were proud boasts rather than admissions.
The Kremlin, in short, had “gotten away with it.” At a cost in millions of lives, through the instrumentalities of hunger and terror, socialized agriculture had been made to yield an excellent harvest. Certain observers now insisted in print that the efficacy of collectivization had been demonstrated; nothing, of course, had been demonstrated except the efficacy of concentrated force used against a population demoralized by protracted hunger.
There were few peasant homes in the worst of the famine districts which had not paid a toll in life for this harvest. In hundreds of villages half the population was gone: some had been killed by the “diseases of malnutrition” and others had fled to seek food. In September and October, Chamberlin, Duranty, and others who visited southern Russia still found half-deserted villages. It would be years before the memory of this fearful time would lose its poignancy in the Ukraine and North Caucasus, in Kazakstan and Lower Volga. And there were those who believed, as I did, that the memory was indelible and would rise to plague those who had decided in cold blood to let the villages starve. But in the cities, at least, a new optimism was born.
The attitude of the professional friends of the U.S.S.R. on the famine went through a curious cycle. First, while the disaster was under way, they made furious denials. Since then, they have tended to admit the facts but to explain them away as unavoidable, and as a just and proper punishment meted out to a “rebellious” peasantry. “Why harp on something that is by now history?” sums up their reproachful objection to a reminder of the period. But all great social crimes, given time, become history. By that fantastic logic, time has wiped out the guilt of those who perpetrated the Inquisition and the St. Bartholomew’s Night massacres, the World War and the fascist destruction of Vienna’s socialist housing, the Reichstag fire and the fascist attack on democratic government in Spain. The Kremlin had foreseen the famine and permitted it to run its course of death and horror for political reasons. The philosophy which made such a decision possible, the mad arrogance of rulers condemning millions to death, are not justified by the fact that the dead are buried and the survivors being fed. Read More: http://www.garethjones.org/soviet_articles/assignment_in_utopia.htm
How many millions actually died will never be known accurately. It is not generally understood abroad that the Soviet government stopped the publication of vital statistics for the period in question, although such statistics were published as a matter of routine in previous years; otherwise it would be a simple matter to compare the death-rate for the winter and spring of 1932-33 with the normal death-rate.