An Era of Political Corruption: The Philosophy of Communism Reimagined in the 1945 classic, Animal Farm, George Orwell uses a simple fable-style tale to demonstrate how the shadow of tyranny that progressively engulfs an English farm relates to the timeline of the Russian Revolution and the Stalin Era. With the collective effort of the animals to successfully rebel against their oppressive farmer, they soon adopt the maxim: “All animals are equal” and aim to live in a classless society from that point on (Orwell 4).
Although this is the animals’ initial intent, the farm steadily slips into a hierarchy. Orwell suggests that, in the allegorical sense, human nature naturally houses the hunger for power and greed, and proves this inevitability in the story of Animal Farm. Orwell utilizes the simple structure of a fable to effectively enhance the main theme of the story; the theme being an extended metaphor, or an allegory, to the history of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1953. Orwell executes this theme through the literary devices of historical context, allegorical characterization, and symbolism.
To better understand the purpose of Animal Farm, one must be familiar with the basic facts of the Russian Revolution and a significant line from Karl Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Marx states: “… and in his human functions he no longer feels himself to be anything but an animal. What is animal becomes human and what is human becomes animal” (30). Marx compares humans to animals to show how capitalist societies reduce humans down to the results of their labor; suggesting that the working class is has as much importance as oxen plowing a field.
Old Major, a prized pig on the Manor Farm, points out the flaws of man, just like Marx points out the flaws of capitalism in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Old Major’s speech is meant to reflect the ideals in The Communist Manifesto. He points out “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing … He sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself” (Orwell 2). Orwell uses “Man” in Old Major’s speech, to exemplify, primarily, the farmer of the Manor Farm.
In regards to Marx’s perspective, “Man” is meant to characterize the wealthy class in a capitalist society. Czar Nicolas II was remembered as an inept ruler, like that of Mr. Jones. Nicholas II’s ineffectual leadership incited hatred among the Russian public as did Mr. Jones generated animosity from his animals. Both sets of workers were suffering from starvation and long excruciating workdays. Vladimir Lenin was a revolutionary that acted as the brain behind the Russian Revolution in 1917. Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks party, inspires the Russian workers to revolt against their leader.
Similarly, Old Major concludes his speech by encouraging the animals to riot against Mr. Jones. With the oppressor gone, Lenin strived to carry out the ideas of Marx and establish a communist system in the newly named U. S. S. R. Likewise; the pigs change the name of the farm to “Animal Farm” in honor of their accomplishment, and establish a new system by the name of Animalism. Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin were the two contenders to replace linen after his death in 1924. The two were opposite in character and possessed different views for the future.
Lenin informed the public of his wish to spread the revolution to surrounding nations while Stalin, opposed every word. In result, Stalin exiles Trotsky from Russia to eliminate any trace of competition. Stalin declares himself as dictator and has Trotsky and later assassinated. Stalin gains control of the Communist Party and gradually reverses the principles of Lenin and transforms the Soviet Union into a government very similar to fascism. Each character in Animal Farm is meant to exemplify a specific individual or a significant group of people in the Russian Revolution.
The characters exhibit comparable traits and perform similar actions to correspond to their equivalent. Old Major acts as a mix of Marx and Lenin and represents the revolutionary side of each to paint a picture of a utopian society: the theory of communism. Napoleon, a forceful Berkshire boar, and Snowball, a pig known for his excellent speeches, represent Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky respectively; two men who “clashed openly” in their political views (“Filling Lenin’s Shoes”).
Lastly, Boxer, a horse with a large capacity for labor, represents the loyal working class. Old Major’s dream-sent epiphany is similar to that of the ideas of The Communist Manifesto. When the influential and highly respected pig shares his realization, he encourages the animals to carry out his ideas and to, one day, accomplish such a dream where animals will be free from man and essentially, act out the ideas of Marx. Seventy years prior to the Revolt, Marx, known as the father of communism, writes The Communist Manifesto.
His key ideas in his essay include: private ownership of land should be abolished, equal distribution of wealth; a classless system, and a communal life; everyone shares prosperity. Vladimir Lenin, a Marxist himself, planned to install these ideas after the successful Bolshevik Revolution and his ensuing rise to power. Old Major’s speech lists the flaws of man and its crimes against animals, and arouses the animal’s internal hatred for farmer Jones and mankind.[The communists] openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions … Working Men of All Countries, Unite! “(Marx and Engels). Just as Old Major’s speech focused on man’s capitalist-based greed, Marx recognizes the wealthy class’ absence of motivation to incite change for the overall benefit to the society in which they reside. He writes to show the working class of Russia that revolution starts with them and “have nothing to lose but their chains” (Marx and Engels).
Although Old Major’s Speech appears to contain an effective solution, his black and white thinking leads him to believe that, because of his experience on the farm, he can assume that all of mankind is purely evil and that all animals are purely good. He fails to acknowledge the fact that the animals in Animal Farm possess the natural hunger for power, assuming that their intelligence is like that of a human’s. Likewise, The Communist Manifesto lays out the theory of communism and considers it as an alternative to capitalism and epitomizes a utopian society.
However, both neglect to mention human nature and how it may interfere with the efficiency of communism. Ironically, communism, in practice, has the potential of being as oppressive as any other system. In a communist society, competition and ambition is suppressed due to the fact of every person is equal to one another and the absence of private businesses. Without these characteristics found in human nature, there is no room for progress, only preservation. Napoleon rises to power in an undoubtedly corrupt way.
Gradually, Napoleon gains complete control of the farm with the help of his private army of dogs, and his protege and propagandist, Squealer. Like Napoleon, Stalin manipulated the system and the seven laws of animal farm so that his reign would remain intact and allow him to live a luxurious lifestyle while his country starved and experienced extreme labor. While Napoleon neglects Old Major’s wish for the future of Animal Farm, Stalin abandons Marx ideas and transforms the Soviet Union into a more authoritative form of communism.
Napoleon’s transformation from the behavior of a pig to a human symbolizes Stalin’s complete neglect of the principles of Marxism, and represents the gradual shift of power from the people, to the government. With Napoleon in power, he felt the need to have a personal army to remain in such authority. He raises nine puppies from birth and transforms them into vicious guard dogs. Likewise, Stalin had his own secret police called the NKVD that would capture anyone who was suspected as a threat and carry out their execution. Such formations of personal security allowed a violent force to ensure their position in power.