Have you ever sought out to change something for the better but ended up making it worse? In the novel Animal Farm, by George Orwell, animals take over a farm. The leaders of the new farm want to be nothing like humans but end up practicing many of the practices that were hated. Orwell’s story was criticised and ridiculed for its portrayal of the history of Soviet communism. The story points out what a leader should not do, and more importantly what we should not let happen. It also takes a blow at the Soviet Union, especially Joseph Stalin. In Animal Farm, the animals wanted equality through democracy but obtained it through socialism. This eventually led to communism and the destruction of the farm and it’s animals. Animal Farm shows how equality through socialism is detrimental to society through the portrayal of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s reign.
In Animal Farm, Mr. Jones, the farmer, represents Czar Nicholas II, the leader previous to Stalin. Mr. Jones also represents the old government of the Soviet Union, that was uprooted by the animals. The animals were uncertain of the future, they could not have predicted or guessed what the future held. Similarly the dreams of freedom from humanity were not accomplished in the S.U. The old boar, Old Major, starts the idea of change and begins questioning authority. Orwell did not speak about Napoleon or Snowball when the mayor, Old Major, speaks to all the animals to start this change and to obtain his dreams. Napoleon and Snowball were inspired by Old Major’s speeches, so when he died, they took over as dominant leaders. Orwell uses the other pigs to surround and support Napoleon which symbolizes the communist party loyalists and the friends of Stalin.
On the Manor Farm, the pigs, unlike all of the other animals, live in luxury and enjoy the benefits of the society they created and now help control. Inequality among the animals and injustice is expressed by Orwell. He states in the story that the only animals that have freedom and live happy lives are the dogs and the pigs. Similarly, The people of the Soviet Union were oppressed and placed a in a controlled society. Stalin, his friends and members of the communist party all sat back and reaped the benefits they were obtaining. The limiting and controlling factors they set in place were selfish and egocentric.
Napoleon eventually became the leader of the Manor Farm. He wanted to build a windmill to generate electricity for the farm. Stalin had a policy put in place called the Five Year Plans. The Five Year Plans built factories, hydro-electric dams, canals, railways, improved roads and other infrastructural projects. The aim of the Five Year Plans was to modernise Soviet industry and bridge the gap between the advancing western countries. Napoleon just as Stalin, wanted to advance the farm and help the animals out but did so in a horrible way. In the Five Years Plans Stalin and his apostles were harsh to the laborers. Being late for work was an arrestable offense, workers were even arrested when a machine broke or when someone made a mistake at work. The working conditions were horrible and the hours were too long. Napoleon does the same to Boxer, a horse whose incredible strength was key to the farm’s success. Both Stalin and Napoleon failed to realize the cost of their policies.
Stalin and his revolutionary leaders educate people in ways of communism, this is similar to Napoleon having the younger pigs educated and schools formed particularly for them. Moses, a tame raven, tells stories of ‘Sugarcandy Mountain’, the paradise where animals supposedly go when they die. This brings faith and beliefs to all of the animals. He comes back again to the farm when Napoleon needed him. This portrays when Stalin reinstalled the Russian Orthodox Church. Orwell uses him to show how communism and Stalin exploit religion as something with which to appease the oppressed. Stalin and Napoleon both needed to pacify the people or animals they oppressed.
Snowball starts to teach the animals to read, while Napoleon takes a group of puppies to educate them. Later in the story when Snowball is addressing the animals the puppies that Napoleon had taken in order to ‘educate’ chased Snowball away from the farm. This scares all of the animals and makes them fear the power that Napoleon now holds. He adapts himself in becoming a powerful, forceful, and uncanny leader that all animals will respect and not question his authority. Stalin possessed the ability to frighten people and to cover their faces with fear, because of his sheer strength and power he held.
‘Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.’ French historian and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville was completely right when stating this. The Pigs in Animal Farm wanted animals to be equal without the ruling power of the humans. They seeked this equality through a democracy trying to preserve liberty. What ended up happening was not their original intent. Napoleon quickly rises to power and begins to act more and more like a human being. He is sleeping in a bed, drinking whisky, and engaging in trade with other farmers going against the original Animalist principles that he instilled.
George Orwell based this story on the Soviet Union during the Stalin era. The characters portray actual people in the Russian Revolution. The animals hoped for better lives but in the end, it just became more worse. In the Soviet Union, the ruling class was supposed to help detect major problems of the society but failed to do so which resulted in it remaining the same and even worsening. The pigs tried their best to eliminate practices of humans from all of the animals in order for them to effectively dominate as leaders. But the humans they originally rebelled against were better leaders than Napoleon and Snowball. In the actual historical event, Stalin masked the Czar with a good personality and made him appear as a kind, trustworthy leader. In reality he was the complete opposite and took advantage of this propaganda. Just as Squealer, Napoleon’s propagandist, justified every action Napoleon did to the other animals, convincing them that he was a great leader and was improving the farm for them.
Animal Farm is a perfect portrayal of how your goal can be lost on the way to achieving it. This is a common mistake that happens in today’s world. People can use the lessons taught in this story in today’s modern world, to make sure the same mistakes are made again. One can also learn that equality through socialism is only achieved through restraint and servitude, just as Alexis de Tocqueville said. That true equality comes from liberty through democracy. Orwell portrayed the Soviet Union during the Stalin era and socialism’s detrimental effects on society and the world. His use of historical events to back up the meaning of the story only reinforces his message.