Oceania the Model

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Stasiland author Anna Funder notes a creepy/funny fact about East Germany:

I'd long been fascinated by George Orwell's work, but I resisted reading 1984 until I finished the manuscript for Stasiland. After that, I devoured it, and I couldn't believe Orwell's prescience. When I went into [Stasi chief Erich] Mielke's office, I saw it had the number 101, which in 1984 is the number of the torture chamber. 1984 was banned in the G.D.R. but of course, Mielke and Honecker had access to banned material. The guide told me that Mielke wanted this number so much that even though his office was on the 2nd floor, he had the entire first floor renamed the Mezzanine so that he could call his room 101.

Bonus links: Reason's review of Stasiland. A searchable online edition of 1984. Thomas Pynchon's essay on 1984. The actual year 1984. The Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. Doublethink.

NEXT: Hey, Nerds!

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  1. “The guide told me that Mielke wanted this number so much that even though his office was on the 2nd floor, he had the entire first floor renamed the Mezzanine so that he could call his room 101.”

    Who says totalitarians have no sense of humor?

  2. From Pynchon’s review:
    Orwell: “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I know it.”

    “Democratic socialism, as we know it” being, of course, completely imaginary, since it’s always totalitarian when implemented.

    http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n1_v49/ai_19071771/pg_1
    has some interesting tidbits:
    “One sometimes gets the impression,” he wrote as early as the mid Thirties, “that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw toward them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.” By the mid Forties Orwell was going even further — so far as to write an extraordinarily sympathetic review of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom acknowledging that there was “a great deal of truth” in Hayek’s thesis that “socialism leads to despotism,” and that the collectivism entailed by socialism brings with it “concentration camps, leader worship, and war.”

    Socialism: “Great idea, wrong species” – I. Forget.

  3. LOL, P Brooks! awesome!

    agreed!

    it was a real hoot how they kept goin’ and changin’ the borders on Poland and all

    🙂

    and since Marx’s last words (allegedly) were, “dude! I vas kidding!”, you have a legit, historical point

  4. In “Why Orwell Matters” Christopher Hitchens mentions the origination of room 101: The editor’s meeting toom at the BBC when he was working there in the 1930s.

    Also, someplace else I heard an Orwell scholar (may be Hitchens again) talking about “the book” that was circulating around the Eastern Bloc, by a westerner, who had described perfectly how they could control society. The book, of course, was 1984 by George Orwell, aka, Eric Arthur Blair.

  5. “‘Democratic socialism, as we know it’ being, of course, completely imaginary, since it’s always totalitarian when implemented.”

    Except, of course, in most of Western Europe. The problem isn’t that democratic socialism is totalitarian when implemented (that’s just your Pavlovian McCarthy response). The reason that democratic socialism is imaginary is because it becomes (as it should) more capitalistic when implemented (unless western europe went commie while I was napping).

  6. unless western europe went commie while I was napping

    The part outside of England did right after WWII. Musta been a long nap 🙂

  7. Except, of course, in most of Western Europe.

    Western Europe sucks… it is becoming a totalitarian hellhole even faster than the United States is.

    that’s just your Pavlovian McCarthy response

    Yes, remember folks, being critical of the government is the same as government sponsered persecution! The vaugest hint of skeptisism about the glorious infalible nature of our god-like ruling-class, and you are black-listing Jews!

    If you don’t blindly believe in the infinite and uncorruptable benevelance of the state, then you are forcing Arther Miller to move to Europe to get a job! You bastards!

    The reason that democratic socialism is imaginary is because it becomes (as it should) more capitalistic when implemented

    Well, at least you get some things right. The so-called “democratic socialist” countries such as the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, etc., are in many ways more laissez faire free-market than the United States… which is why they enjoy a fairly high standard of living. Basicly, the parts of Western Europe than arent sliding into the worst sorts of decay are the places they are the least social-democratic (despite the stereotype of the socialist scandinavians – which is about as accurate as the stereotype that all Americans are cowboys).

  8. RexRhino:

    I wasn’t really defending Western Europe (though I have to say, I may soon live there). I was just pointing out that F.Lemur’s comment was a bit narrowly construed. Sometimes Democratic Socialism was really totalitarism in diguise (i.e, German Democratic Republic), but Western Europe proves that many times it was just capitalism with a conscience.

  9. Did the title to this story change? I lost the old one down the memory hole.

  10. This post is titled “Oceania the Model.” This post has always been titled “Oceania the Model.”

  11. Anything else was an untitle.

  12. Except, of course, in most of Western Europe.

    Aside from all the Western European countries having market economies, sure. Now, welfare states, they certainly have a-plenty, but socialism is pretty much right out, aside from a nationalized industry here and there.

  13. Thanks! That’s my entire point. Socialism is an ideology that doesn’t really exist in practice. When implemented, it either becomes totalitarian or capitalistic. F. LeMur said that it “always” goes in the direction of totalitarianism, which in the case of Europe, isn’t true. Also, I’m not sure how one could characterize nationalized medicine as “welfare state.”

  14. This post is titled “Oceania the Model.” This post has always been titled “Oceania the Model.”

    It’s title is whatever you say it is . . .

  15. This post has always been at war with posts titled “1984 the Model.”

  16. I wasn’t really defending Western Europe (though I have to say, I may soon live there).

    I, too, plan to move to France if Hillary gets elected.

  17. Socialism is an ideology that doesn’t really exist in practice. When implemented, it either becomes totalitarian or capitalistic.

    Which seems in complete agreement with the person you were disagreeing with: it either goes totalitarian or stops being socialism.

  18. Stevo Darkly,

    If she gets eleclected the plan is to move france here.

  19. Eric the .5b:

    First: “it either goes totalitarian or stops being socialism.”

    F. Lemur said that democratic socialism doesn’t work because it always becomes totalitarian. Your construction of the debate indicates that it either becomes totalitarian or something else. This contradicts LeMur’s “always.”

    But also, as you know and F. LeMur knows, when socialism goes totalitarian, it’s called communism (the USSR was communist or socialist?). The point is that there are two variables that aren’t really separable. Democracy and socialism. Neither exist in their pure form. Socialism has come to mean many of the governmental policies of western Europe such as national healthcare (i.e., socialized medicine). Spain’s left leaning party is the socialist worker’s party — and yet it is a democracy. So, no, there isn’t even a middle ground. Saying that democratic socialism doesn’t exist because is always (key word) becomes totalitarian is just flat out wrong. Most times it becomes capitalistic. Do I need to draw a matrix?

  20. This post has always been at war with posts titled “1984 the Model.”

    I bellyfeel the truthiness of this. Doubleplusgood.

  21. Rex Rhino

    **The so-called “democratic socialist” countries such as the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, etc.**

    Enlighten me, Mr Rhino. When, exactly, did Switzerland become part of `Scandinavia and how did they get it there, on a truck?

  22. But also, as you know and F. LeMur knows, when socialism goes totalitarian, it’s called communism…Socialism has come to mean many of the governmental policies of western Europe

    Ah, so you’re not merely picking nits, you’re redefining words. Have fun with that.

  23. Just the way kids read books: “Cool. Can I be the bad guy?”

    As to Western Europe, in most places it’s social democratic rather than democratic socialist.

  24. Socialism is an ideology that doesn’t really exist in practice. When implemented, it either becomes totalitarian or capitalistic.

    Wait, just as we haven’t seen real communism we haven’t seen real socialism either?

    Will the real radical leftists please stand up? I repeat: Will the real radical leftists please stand up.

    We’re gonna have a problem here.

  25. Yall act like you’ve never seen a left winger before.

  26. **The so-called “democratic socialist” countries such as the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, etc.**

    “Enlighten me, Mr Rhino. When, exactly, did Switzerland become part of `Scandinavia and how did they get it there, on a truck?”

    I have to step in here. **The so-called “democratic socialist” countries such as the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, etc.** does not indicate that Switzerland is a Scandinavian country. It merely lists “Switzerland” as one member of a series that also includes “Scandinavian countries” and “etc.”

    He did not say **The so-called “democratic socialist” Scandinavian countries, such as Switzerland, etc.**

  27. Switzerland is a good example of the corrupting evffects of socialism.

    Once they were peaceful and now they’re invading their smaller neighbors for no good reason.

  28. Eric the .5b:

    “Ah, so you’re not merely picking nits, you’re redefining words.”

    I’m redefining words? See, according to some of those incredibly biased, ultra-radical right wing history books, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was actually communist….and that happened before I was born!! So somebody was at this redefinition thing before I was….

    This just in: the following countries “redefined” socialism long before Lamar did: USSR, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

    The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and German Democratic Republic even redefined democracy.

    And yet, some of the Western European countries have the gaul to pursue a Democratic Socialist agenda when they can clearly see that these are words used by commies.

    However, in the spirit of hearty debate, I’ll allow you to define the government system where democratic socialism exists under a totalitarian regime. I used to think these were communist countries, but now I realize that I’m a victim of right wing conspiracies. The mere fact that they called themselves socialist or democratic republics should be enough to convince anyone, no redefinition necessary.

    I mean, if you can’t trust the commies to label themselves accurately, who can you trust? 🙂 Ultimately, snarky replies don’t contradict the historical fact that democratic socialism does not always lead to totalitarianism, and clearly some of the western european states prove this. If we’re going to nitpick and say that the western european states aren’t really socialist, then we have to also recognize that the eastern european states aren’t really socialist either. If that’s “redefinition” then so be it.

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