George Orwell: © With kind permission of the estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
UCL: © Orwell Archive, UCL Library Special Collections.
This is the fair copy of ‘The Freedom of the Press’, which George Orwell wrote as a preface for his novella Animal Farm. The piece was eventually not included in the first edition of the work, and it remained undiscovered until 1971. Orwell’s essay discusses his difficulties in trying to publish Animal Farm, and accuses liberal publishers and journalists of censoring dissenting political positions.
In his introduction Orwell makes the anti-Stalinist meaning of his fable explicit, claiming that the popularity of the Soviet Union with British intellectuals was to blame for publishers’ refusal to print his work. He argues that during the years of the war the most radical sort of censorship has not been enforced by government bodies but by publishers and editors. According to Orwell’s indignant essay, the liberal press only defends freedom of expression when it doesn’t contradict their views:
The issue involved here is quite a simple one: Is every opinion, however unpopular - however foolish, even – entitled to a hearing? Put it in that form and nearly any English intellectual will feel that he ought to say “Yes”. But give it a concrete shape, and ask, “How about an attack on Stalin? Is that entitled to a hearing?", and the answer more often than not will be “No”. In that case the current orthodoxy happens to be challenged, and so the principle of free speech lapses.