Animal Farm – Historical Relevance

George Orwell grew up a devout and dedicated socialist in the British colonies of India and even when he eventually studied and lived in England. He was loyal to the beliefs and followings of socialisms fathers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the authors of The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. However, when Orwell saw the ideals of Socialism turned into vicious Communism, taking advantage of and abusing the lower classes that it was intended to help, he could not turn a blind eye to the cruelties and hypocrisies of the totalitarian Communism under the dictatorial reign of Joseph Stalin. Therefore, Orwell wrote two greatest anti-Communist novels that solidified his place as an advocate of freedom and a committed opponent of Communist oppression. His loathing criticism is best portrayed and evident in his satirical and allegoric fable Animal Farm. Written between 1943 and 1944, it served as an enlightening call to freedom and fairness around the world with the Russian revolution serving as the perfect backdrop and storyline to convey his powerful message.
In February 1917, Czar Nicholas II, the monarch of Russia abdicated leaving Alexander Kerensky as the premier. However, about eight months later Kerensky was overthrown by Socialist/Communist revolutionists led by Vladimir Lenin, who quickly was self-appointed Chief Commissar of the new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Almost immediately, as the country was war-torn, the chief allies of Lenin began jockeying for position and power in the newly formed state. Most notably including Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev. The popular and charismatic Trotsky came into the forefront along with the intimidating and militant Stalin as the likely successors to Lenins vast power. Upon Lenins death in 1924, Stalin manipulated an alliance with Zinoviev and Kaminev against Trotsky. Eventually Stalin stood supreme dictator of the USSR where Trotsky was exiled and eventually assassinated by Stalins troops. These horrifying events became the wondrous plot and characters of Animal Farm.
Mr. Jones, representing the capitalist monarch society in pre-rebellion Russia, has a functioning and standard farm in the countryside of England and it includes the typical animals and beasts of burden on such a farm, including pigs, horses, poultry, dogs, goats and other animals of the sort. In many ways the farm also mimics the countryside of Russia during its revolution with its poor and worsening conditions and irresponsible leaders. He works and uses the animals to sell the fruits of their labor so that he may survive and thrive in the capitalist society. However, Old Major, a prize-winning boar has been around long enough to realize his and the other animals exploitation. He envisions and dreams of a socialist utopia for the animals. He assembles the animals to tell him of his dream and the pending rebellion against the harsh and devil human. He stirs and inspires the animals with his song Beasts of England. In the role of Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx, Old Major enjoys a brief period of leadership controlling the revolution but fails to see the product of his vision, dying only three days after initially inciting his new comrades, an obvious pun on the Soviets word for friend.
Finally, after a brief period of planning and plotting, the animals, starving and freezing, break into the food storage and help themselves, when Mr. Jones discovers them, he, quite inebriated, begins to whip the animals in an attempt to hoard them back into their pens. Unexpectedly, the revolution spontaneously occurs as the animals have finally had too much and can stand no more. The revolt is extremely successful as Mr. Jones and his men are driven from the farm. Following their victory, Napoleon and Snowball, two ambitious young pigs, emerge as the two new leaders in the new animal republic, evidently depicting the Communist combatants of Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. Quickly, led by the pigs, reconstruction and establishment begins on the revolutionary Animal Farm, akin to post World War I Russia. The pigs, whom had hastily recognized themselves as the intelligent leaders of their comrades, formulated the fundamentals of success on Animal Farm with a philosophy called Animalism. Animalism, unbeknownst to them, was based upon the principles of Socialism, where each and every animal or comrade was treated equally and fairly in a classless and casteless society. Furthermore, with these moral standards put in place, the pigs drafted the Seven Commandments so that the comrades shall never forget and stray from their newfound benevolence and philanthropy and wrote them on the barn wall for all to see. The Commandments included: 1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. 2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. 3. No animal shall wear clothes. 4. No animal shall sleep in a bed. 5. No animal shall drink alcohol. 6. No animal shall kill any other animal. 7. All animals are equal. The unintelligent animals, such as the sheep, were forced to turn the Seven Commandments into one maxim of Four legs good, two legs bad.
The revolution and transition were completed, all seemed to be going well. The Soviets had aided in the allied victory of WWI and the farmers of the Soviet Union, the majority of the population, believed the Communist promises of equality and never before imagined welfare in which the results of the labor of all would be shared fairly by all. No more was starvation or deficiency in any area supposed to be a problem. Consequently, on Animal Farm, things are also going well. The animals, working without a harsh master, worked harder and better than ever before. Their work brings pride, self-satisfaction and the largest harvest ever with every animal eating every meal like pigs and/or royalty.
Everything seems to be flowing in the direction of happy Socialism as the peasants and workers are becoming richer, happier more equal to the formerly upper and superior classes. However, greed amongst the ranks of leaders would soon begin to ruin the thus far well regulated and fulfilled plan. Snowball is courageous and successful in repelling the attack of Mr. Jones and his men and has begun to draw up plans for a fantastic windmill that will cut down on the labor and increase the end results as well as powering the barns with heat and electricity. His recent courage, innovation and charming persuasiveness delivered in the weekly Sunday debates are making him favored over the more rough and demanding, despite being less articulate, Napoleon. Finally the windmill comes down to a debate and vote at a Sunday meeting. Snowball closes with a brilliant and convincing speech that appears to have the vote in his favor. However, at this point, the threatened and enraged Napoleon (Stalin), unleashes his secret weapon. Nine vicious dogs that he had taken from dogs Jessie and Bluebell upon their birth claiming he personally would educate them. However, he viciously trained these dogs to be unwavering in killing and loyal to him. Furthermore, the dogs rushed right at their designated enemy, Snowball. They chased Snowball off of the farm and he would never be heard from again but would still be an important character. All this reminiscent of when Stalins dogs, or his growing and grudgingly ruthless military, chased Trotsky out of the Republic to never be seen again.
The animal population was stunned and did not know what to do about this horrible event. Napoleon had planned on this and now has able to announce his sole rule and domain on Animal Farm. This is the turning point in which the farm takes a horrible turn towards totalitarianism and oppressive communism. Soon after, Napoleon decides that a windmill shall be built and when questions are raised the propaganda dispersing pig Squealer quickly dismisses that Snowball had stolen Napoleons windmill plans and that Napoleon was then forced to oust the traitor. Eventually, the weak windmill comes down in storm and the very next day an outraged Napoleon instantly blames Snowball for undermining and conniving against the farm and committing secret ambush attacks on the farm at night. This is the first example of many where Napoleon blames Snowball for any sort of problem. Paralleling, in 1934, Stalins ally Serge Kirov was assassinated, prompting Stalin to begin his unfair and severe purges of the Communists and the USSR. Stalin began to blame any fault on Trotskys influence and evil doing just as Napoleon does. Furthermore, Stalin found scapegoats for his failures and would kill innocent Communist workers by labeling them traitors and would then have them executed. Corresponding, Napoleon called a special meeting of the animals where he forced four pigs, whom had supported Snowball, to ridiculously and erroneously admit to conspiring with Snowball against the Animal Farm. Furthermore, Napoleon executes three hens that had resisted to giving their eggs to him, a goose who had stolen corn, a sheep who urinated in the drinking pool and two other sheep for murdering a ram. These ridiculous executions and purges only showed the absurd lengths that Napoleon and Stalin would go to keep an intimidating stronghold on the animals and the peasants. By this point the farm is a political regime of Napoleon based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of life.
Meanwhile, numerous hypocrisies occur on the farm and appear to be in contradiction of the Seven Commandments. For example, following the mass executions, Clover, a suspicious, good-hearted female horse, questions the sixth commandment but when she goes to check the list and has Muriel, a goat, read her the commandments to check. However, the pigs have added two key words to the end of the commandment, without cause. These new words make it perfectly justified and necessary then, according to the lying Squealer, to have killed those traitors and conspirators. Furthermore, eventually, once the pigs have decided to inhabit the farmhouse they begin to break just about every commandment. The high-class pigs begin to wear Mr. Jones old clothes, begin to sleep in his bed and drink alcohol on a regular nightly basis. Finally, when Clover catches the pigs walking on two legs like a human they have broken the biggest rule and commandment of all. A disheartened and confused Clover goes to check the commandments and once again finds the commandments have been changed. This time they read ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS. This is the last and greatest example of the atrocious manipulation of language for use as an instrument of control by those in power. After years of violence, hunger, dishonesty and fear, the spirit of Animal Farm seems like a distant memory. By seeking to become more equal than the other animals, the pigs have horribly transformed the original ideal of the farm, have used language to betray the truth and have simply found a more sophisticated and humanly method for literally stepping into the position of their former tyrannical masters. The leadership styles of Napoleon and Stalin were not as clever as they were effective, by immortalizing themselves and ruling through intimidation and trepidation, they wallowed in prosperity and power.
Furthermore, there are plenty examples of ridiculous abuse of power that are comparative to the abuse the USSR peasants suffered at the hands of Stalin. These hypocrisies only exploited and neglected the workers and people of the USSR and the Animal Farm. In the novel the sheep are too dumb to think for themselves and cannot even remember the commandments and rely simply on sporadically and without reason shouting out their maxim, Four legs good, two legs bad. And when they see the pigs walking upright towards the end of the story, upon seeing the pigs walking upright, the ignorant sheep are convinced now that Four legs good, two legs better! These sheep are a perfect example and illustration of the ignorant and helpless people that were fooled and deceived by the tyrannical and gluttonous leaders. Furthermore, Boxer, the great, hard-working and incredible workhorse is another great example of people being deceived and used as an implement and pawn for the insatiable Communist despots. Boxers strength, dedication and work ethic made him the model comrade as well as the reason for the farms early success. His two mottos and creeds are I will work harder and Napoleon is always right. However, when the tremendous Boxer goes down, Napoleon sells him to a glue-maker for money to a crate of whiskey. This ultimate betrayal on the model and perfect comrade is perhaps the saddest and most obvious need for change and outrage among the people. All of these horrible unjusts and double-standards are covered up by Squealer, the propaganda department just like Stalin used to spread lies and blame about Trotsky.
The Animal Farm and the Russian Revolution were alike in many ways, both started with bright ideas for the future of the people and ended with a corrupt government turning the settlement into what it initially opposed. The Animal Farm was written as a specific attack on a specific government, but its general and underlying themes of oppression, injustice and tyranny are a powerful attack on any political or military powers that seek to unjustly control human beings. Too much power brings out the worst in us and great and absolute power corrupts us in a way that only seems natural to an animal.

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