The book 1984, being about suppression of information itself, was banned in the USSR for being anti-communist, but it also was banned in the USA for being pro-communist.

Is there any analysis where this apparent contradiction is explained?

  • 31
    It's not a contradiction. It's doublethink. Jan 18, 2017 at 20:26

1 Answer 1


The reality is that, from the perspective of a pro-government stance, 1984 promotes the idea that the government shouldn't be involved in your private lives, and that it's a quick step from government monitoring to government abuse and overreach. It promotes civil disobedience, and fighting for human rights and liberties in your own personal way. It promotes skepticism of government action: that the things governments do to purportedly help you actually hurt you in subtle ways. It promotes the idea that wars are simply fought because frivolous wars are good for social order, structure, and economy. It promotes the idea that the government not only wants to, but does, control and influence what you see and hear.

No pro-government ideology wants to promote those ideas within its own culture. It's no surprise they were banned - in Russia and certain places in the US for roughly the same reasons.

For Russia, the "anti-communist" reason makes a whole lot of sense. 1984 is really less about capitalism and communism, and more about totalitarianism. Russia, at the time, held many of the structural and cultural problems that 1984 hyperbolized and fought against. Russia, logically, banned imports of the book for roughly this reason.

However, importantly, the US did not ban these books in the same way Russia did. It wasn't sweeping, national, and unilateral: it was usually very local to specific school districts, and affected far fewer people.

1984 was published in the US at about the time of the second world war, in the year 1949. This was around the time when the US was at war with and/or gearing up for war with communist nations. The red scare was still very real, and proxy wars with communist nations were about to become the new hit fad. This was a time when "commie" was an insult and McCarthyism was alive and well. If you wanted to get a book banned, all you really had to do was suggest that it was a) going to have some serious influence, and b) promoted communism.

In the case of the US, it was usually individuals or small groups of individuals responsible for local bans. These bans were often raised, for example, by parents against school districts. The US itself can't ban books (with love: the First Amendment), and frequently overturns school boards on this point (it's a blog, but it's a case law blog). Instead of a national law, specific school boards, like the one in Jackson County, FL, banned the consumption of these books. (It's also on the ALA's frequently-challenged books list.) So it was on a far more individual, county-to-county basis.

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    Do you have any evidence that this was indeed the reasoning for those who banned the book in US? Especially considering that the book was pretty much a critique of communism.
    – DVK
    Jan 18, 2017 at 21:05
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    @DVK I just had to get up and leave. I remember reading a handful of sources about this after re-reading 1984, though. I'll edit them in when I get a chance.
    – user80
    Jan 18, 2017 at 21:07
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    (I'm still working on those references. It's on on my task list - it'll get done. I just got a bit distracted - sorry about the wait!)
    – user80
    Jan 21, 2017 at 13:06
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    No rush. I care about end state of posts, not how fast it takes to get there (rand is STILL waiting for my epic answer promised like 1 year ago)
    – DVK
    Jan 21, 2017 at 14:22
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    @DVK I've gotten around to editing the answer, and added a few more references and clarity. Turns out, the way I had written it before was somewhat incomplete. I tried digging around for case law, but couldn't seem to find it - if anyone knows where I might get it, I'd really appreciate it!
    – user80
    Feb 1, 2017 at 8:28

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