Emmanuel Goldstein

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Emmanuel Goldstein on a telescreen in Michael Radford's 1984 film adaptation. Played by actor John Boswall.

Emmanuel Goldstein is a fictional character in George Orwell's 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He is the principal enemy of the state according to the Party of the totalitarian Oceania. He is depicted as the head of a mysterious and possibly fictitious dissident organization called "The Brotherhood" and as having written the book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. He is only seen and heard on telescreen, and may be a fabrication of the Ministry of Truth, the State's propaganda department.

Character history[edit]

In the novel, Goldstein is a character rumoured to be a former top member of the Party and an early associate of its leader, "Big Brother", but having broken away early in the movement and started "The Brotherhood". Ostensibly "The Brotherhood" is organized into cells, with each member required to read The Book, supposedly written by Goldstein, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. Goldstein is always the subject of the "Two Minutes Hate", a daily programme beginning at 11:00 a.m. at which an image of Goldstein is shown on the telescreen and subjected to extreme contempt. Goldstein is commonly depicted walking among the parading soldiers of Oceania's current enemy – Eurasia or Eastasia – implying that he is not only an ideological opponent of the regime but also a traitor aiding and abetting the national enemy.

It is not clear whether Goldstein or "The Brotherhood" really exist. When protagonist Winston Smith asks O'Brien, an Inner Party member, whether The Brotherhood is real, O'Brien replies:

That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind.

O'Brien states that Goldstein's book was written by the Party leadership, including himself, but this statement leaves the questions of Goldstein and the Brotherhood's existence unanswered and may be a lie by O'Brien to deceive Winston.

One possible interpretation is that a political opposition to Big Brother – namely, Goldstein – was psychologically necessary in order to distract, unite and focus the anger of the people of Oceania. Ostensibly, Goldstein serves as a scapegoat for the dictatorial regime in Nineteen Eighty-Four and justifies its surveillance and elimination of civil liberties.

Trotsky as potential real-life origin[edit]

Trotsky, 1920

Not long after the novel's appearance,[1] a number of contemporary commentators noticed that the biography, appearance, writing style, and political thought of Emmanuel Goldstein resembled that of Leon Trotsky. Born Lev Bronstein, Trotsky was a close associate of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and later the chief rival of Joseph Stalin, the latter of whom branded Trotsky a traitor and expelled him from the Soviet Union in 1929. In exile, Trotsky wrote The Revolution Betrayed, denouncing Stalin and the Soviet Union. During the Great Purges of the 1930s, when Stalin consolidated his power by killing and imprisoning many of the early members of the Bolshevik party, Stalin's propaganda invariably depicted Trotsky as the instigator of all supposed plots and acts of sabotage. In 1940, Stalinist agent Ramón Mercader murdered Trotsky at the latter's residence in Mexico.

Orwell declared, in a letter to U.S. writer Sidney Sheldon, that Nineteen Eighty Four was inspired by the Soviet Union under Stalin, imagining what would happen if such a social and political movement existed in England:

[Nineteen Eighty-Four] was based chiefly on communism, because that is the dominant form of totalitarianism, but I was trying chiefly to imagine what communism would be like if it were firmly rooted in the English speaking countries, and was no longer a mere extension of the Russian Foreign Office.[2]

Orwell wrote of Trotskyism:

The fact that Trotskyists are everywhere a persecuted minority, and that the accusation usually made against them, i. e. of collaborating with the Fascists, is obviously false, creates an impression that Trotskyism is intellectually and morally superior to Communism; but it is doubtful whether there is much difference.[3]

In 1954, Isaac Deutscher wrote that Goldstein's book in Nineteen Eighty-Four was intended as a "paraphrase" of The Revolution Betrayed.[4] In 1956, Irving Howe described Goldstein's book as "clearly a replica" of Trotsky's The Revolution Betrayed, writing that the parts that seemed to be imitating Trotsky were "among the best passages" of the novel.[5] Critic Adrian Wanner, writing in a collection of essays edited by Harold Bloom, described Goldstein's book as a "parody" of The Revolution Betrayed, noting that Orwell was deeply ambivalent about Trotsky.[6]

Contemporary comparisons[edit]

George Soros[edit]

George Soros, a wealthy progressive Jewish philanthropist, has been compared to Emmanuel Goldstein by The Economist. Soros has criticised the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán in the past for his handling of the 2015 European migrant crisis. Soros' wealth and origins have made him the subject of numerous conspiracy theories.

Mr Orbán's Fidesz party campaigned in the recent election by plastering the country with ominous posters of Mr Soros. He has come to serve the same role for the government as Emmanuel Goldstein did for the totalitarian state in George Orwell’s "1984": a mythical, shadowy enemy used to focus people’s hatred, and whose imaginary schemes supposedly justify the regime’s complete grip on power.[7]

Richard Nixon[edit]

President Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, long considered a Cold War foe, inspired comparisons with Emmanuel Goldstein's analysis of the shifting alliances of the three superpowers in Nineteen Eighty-Four.[8] The widespread vilification of Nixon due to the Watergate scandal inspired commentary comparing his treatment in the media with the Two Minutes Hate sessions focused on Goldstein.[9][10]

Osama bin Laden[edit]

Goldstein was also compared to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during the latter's lifetime.

Goldstein is the Osama Bin Laden figure in Orwell's novel, an extremely elusive person who is never seen, never captured, but believed by the leadership of Oceania to be still alive and hatching his conspiracies: perhaps somewhere beyond the sea, under the protection of his foreign paymasters. Since Goldstein is never captured, the battle against his crimes, treacheries, sabotages must never end.[11]

Drawing parallels between Goldstein and bin Laden a week after the September 11 attacks, Professor William L. Anderson at Frostburg State University wrote a column for LewRockwell.com entitled "Osama and Goldstein".[12]

Legal scholar Cass Sunstein, in his 2009 book Worst-Case Scenarios, coined the term "Goldstein Effect", described as "the ability to intensify public concern by giving a definite face to the adversary, specifying a human source of the underlying threat."[13] According to Sunstein, since the U.S.-led War on Terror so heavily associated terrorism with bin Laden, the outrage intensified in similar ways as displayed in Nineteen Eighty-Four. However, he also pointed out how Saddam Hussein, to a great degree, and George W. Bush (to a much lesser degree) had been subject to the same Goldstein Effect.[13]


  1. ^ R.M.W. (9 July 1949). "A Vivid, Terrifying Story of What Could Be In 1984". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Saskatoon, Canada. p. 19. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  2. ^ Sheldon, Sidney (2006). The Other Side of Me. New York City: Grand Central Publishing. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-7595-6732-0.
  3. ^ Orwell, George (May 1945). "Notes on Nationalism". Polemic.
  4. ^ Deutscher, Isaac (2003). The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky, 1929–1940 (reprint ed.). New York City: Verso. p. 261. ISBN 1-85984-451-0.
  5. ^ Irving Howe (1963). "Orwell: History as Nightmare". In Sutton, Walter; Foster, Richard (eds.). Modern Criticism. New York City: Bobbs-Merrill. pp. 540, 542.
  6. ^ Bloom, Harold (2007). George Orwell (2 ed.). New York City: Infobase Publishing. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-7910-9428-0.
  7. ^ "The ironies of George Soros's foundation leaving Budapest". The Economist. 16 May 2018.
  8. ^ Brodney, Kenneth (21 October 1971). "The Orwell Hypothesis: Nixon's Quantum Jump?". The Village Voice. p. 24. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  9. ^ Thimmesch, Nick (7 November 1974). "Compassion For Nixon Hard To Summon". Observer-Reporter. p. A-4. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  10. ^ Tiede, Tom (14 April 1976). "Do We Really Need Vengeance From Nixon?". Prescott Courier. p. 4. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  11. ^ Gökay, Bülent; Walker, R. B. J. (2002). 11 September 2001: War, Terror and Judgment. Oxfordshire, England: Taylor & Francis. p. 106. ISBN 0-614-68403-X.
  12. ^ Anderson, William L. (19 September 2001). "Osama and Goldstein". LewRockwell.com.
  13. ^ a b Sunstein, Cass R. (2009). Worst-Case Scenarios. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-674-03251-4.

External links[edit]