A 79-page FBI dossier released on George Orwell reveals
how the British author of Animal Farm
was used by both the Americans and
the Russians as a key figure in the battle for ideas for two decades after
his death in 1950.
Even before 1984 was published in 1949, US publishers sought to exploit
the novel as an attack on Soviet totalitarianism by seeking the endorsement
of J Edgar Hoover, the FBI chief - ironically, he was later dubbed America's
A decade later the Soviets used Orwell as part of a smear campaign to tell
the Russian people that his satire was based on real life in America where
everybody was under survellience.
In the 1960s and 1970s the US security services monitored George Orwell
societies and film clubs on US campuses to make sure they were not a cover
for subversive pro-socialist behaviour. His name was even linked with "Americong",
a terrorist group which bombed an officers' mess at an air force base in
Denver, Colorado, in 1972 in protest at the war in Vietnam.
Details of the file have been released under the US freedom of information
act but 11 pages remain under wraps. FBI reports about the author have been
heavily censored, even though some were delivered three years after Orwell's
The file, opened by Hoover himself, begins with a letter from Orwell's publishers
in April 1949, saying: "We hope you might be interested in helping to call
this book to the attention of the American pub lic - and thus, perhaps, helping
to halt totalitarianism".
Eugene Reynal, the vice-president of the publishing firm Harcourt Brace,
is an important book because it provides a picture of
a plausible but frightening extension of present social and political trends.
Orwell brings home to the reader in a story of mounting interest the horrors
of a totalitarian world can and may bring to us within less than two generations."
He goes on: "The book leaves the reader with the shocked feeling that there
is not single horrible feature in the world of 1984
that is not present,
in embryo, today.
"It describes the process by which the last man in whom the spark of human
spirit has not been totally suppressed, comes to believe, literally, that
two plus two equals five."
The 1955 British-made animated version of Animal Farm
FBI, who declared that it had "hit the jackpot".
Hoover declined to endorse 1984
and he ordered files kept on the
author - including book and film review cuttings. A heavily censored agent's
report says that Orwell had originally been "sympathetic toward the communists
but he later turned against them".
Ten years later the FBI was reporting on a " smear campaign" organised in
East Berlin claiming that Orwell's satire was based on real life in America
"where police survellience and investigation has surpassed the world and had
"Already today an American lives, so to speak, under a glass cover, and
is viewed from all sides," said a report which was distributed across the