Intros are always the hardest thing to write. Grabbing a reader’s attention can drive many a writer to the brink of insanity. For this reason, I’ll keep this intro fairly short: I fucking hate Joseph Stalin. With every fiber of my being do I wish to tear that man to shreds—the murderer of communism, the tyrant akin to Hitler, the assassin of Trotsky. It’s fortunate that there are legions of texts available all too willing to condemn that madman. One of the best texts for its brevity and scathing criticism is “Animal Farm” by George Orwell.
The story is a simple fairy-tale of talking animals, a mean farmer and heroic actions. The twist is that the story follows the history of the Russian Revolution, the subsequent civil war and the acclimation of power of Stalin, portrayed in the novella as a small pig named Napoleon. As a student of the history who specializes on the revolution, I can safely say that the text follows the events perfectly. From the early awkward steps of Marx’s followers to the imperialist forces trying to bring down the union after the revolution to Stalin’s rejection and later acceptance of Trotsky’s desire to modernize the Soviet Union and the shift where Stalin became what the Bolsheviks fought against.
I won’t spoil the story word for word, but if you know your history than you already know how it plays out. The text itself however is very well written, clear and concise and the easy to grasp symbolism should be adopted by all writers. The proletariat is seen in the horse Boxer who declares that he will always work harder. The church that lies to the workers on behalf of the bourgeois is in the raven Moses that leaves only to come back when Napoleon needs a tool to spur the workers on when barbarism doesn’t work any longer. It’s absolutely astounding how much thought went into what every animal would represent and just how accurate Orwell’s portrayal of them is.
This text is important to socialists as, just like with “We”, it shows what evil can come from us. Communism is a message meant for the people, but one terribly hard to accept for many. It’s easy to distort when the masses aren’t armed with the means to combat these fallacies, just like with every other ideal. Lenin, Marx, Trotsky and Che desired absolute freedom for the people, not chains like how many view communism because of Mao and Stalin. Police repressions, censorship, hero-worship and an over dependence on bureaucracy are not the building blocks of communism.
I consider myself a Bolshevik so I believe in a core group of revolutionaries who do their absolute best to inform the people about what makes communism and what goes against it so they can fight against perversions and understand what they’re fighting for and do so willingly.
“Animal Farm” shows how easily one ambitious and crazed man can take power for himself. Some like to point to this as an inherent flaw in communism, but it’s an inherent flaw in every system: democracy, monarchies, capitalism, oligarchies, etc. There will always be ambitious men, some crazed and some very sane. To combat the crazies requires the masses to be informed and willing to act against their rights being taken away, they should also be willing to sacrifice creature comforts like driving a gas-guzzler all night or something like that if the situation calls for it, but that’s a discussion for another day.
This is a short article as there isn’t much else to say aside from this: Socialists must always be aware of our comrades who seem to have a barbaric notion of communism, who are willing to sacrifice millions for no reason, who lie, cheat or batter those they disagree with. Stalin was a murderer of an ideology and millions of people and a child in terms of his understanding of communism.
Text to take away: “The source of the trouble appeared to be that Napoleon and Mr. Pilkington had each played an ace of spades simultaneously…No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which” (Orwell 141).
Editorial Note: Text used is “Animal Farm” by George Orwell as published by Signet Classics.