Animal Farm & The Russian Revolution
Throughout human history, there had always been conflicts of interest between separate parties. To separate an individual’s rights against the people’s common interest has always been a controversial task. Should we emphasize the civil liberties and freedoms that we, as Americans, are entitled to? Or does the promise of the common good, the benefits and interests of everyone, seem to align with what we should want? As we move through wars, power campaigns, and complete takeovers, these events reveal what happens when corruption takes over and attempts to enforce extreme political views. This is discussed in George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm, where unhappy animals revolt against their farmer in order to follow the ways of Animalism, the belief that animals are equal, superior to people, and that people, including their ways of living, are the enemy. Following soon after the rebellion, Snowball, a pig, begins gaining support, Napoleon, a power hungry pig, chases Snowball off the farm with trained, savage dogs, and amidst the chaos, Napoleon quickly instates himself as leader. Problems soon worsen as the pigs begin spreading propaganda among the animals, altering the Seven Commandments (the seven principles of Animalism), and eventually killing those that show signs of opposition or suspicion. In Orwell’s novel, symbolism is used throughout and when comparing Squealer’s ideas to the use of propaganda during Stalin’s reign and Moses the Raven’s message to the promises of the Orthodox Church reveals the consequences when an individual exploits society for their own benefit.
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Throughout Animal Farm, after Napoleon proclaims himself as leader of the revolution, Squealer, second in command to Napoleon, used speech to minister propaganda to the animals. He served the central role of making announcements to the animals and through his spieling could “turn black into white” (Orwell 31). Squealer was key in helping Napoleon maintain power and control over the animals. Near the end of chapter three, the animals began noticing the milk and apples were disappearing. Turns out that the milk was being mixed in with the pigs feed, and the apples were collected and brought in the pig’s harness, and so Squealer sent to help calm the confused animals, “‘You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? … Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples contain substances absolutely necessary to the well−being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades,’ … ‘surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?’ ” (Orwell 42, 43) When Squealer says “It is for your sake that we drink the milk and eat those apples. Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades,’ … ‘surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?” He threatens, that if the pigs couldn’t carry their important duties, Jones would return. The animals, not wanting Jones to come back, accept and don’t question the explanation. When he claims that the pigs don’t even like milk and apples, but it is vital for the pigs’ welfare and since the pigs are the “brains” of the organization, he plays the animals’ ignorance and gullibility. He pretends that he is, in fact, working in liaison with the animals. Squealer represents the propaganda itself under a totalitarian government. One form of propaganda used by the Communist Party was a daily newspaper called The Pravda. “The Pravda was the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1991.” Originally began as a daily newspaper, later became means to administer propaganda under the Communist Party. (Britannica 2016) After the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II, Stalin and a few others took over the Pravda, “although its name means “truth,” the view of those outside the Soviet bloc was that Pravda was a purveyor of Communist theories and interpretations rather than objective reality.” (New World Encyclopedia) While Joseph Stalin was in power, he took complete control over The Pravda, he made propaganda for himself, used it to bash his enemies and change the events of the Russian Revolution to make it appear as if he played a more important role than he actually did. If the people really saw Stalin’s views, they would automatically rebel, as Stalin hid behind The Pravda, he twisted the newspaper in whatever way he wanted. “Workers of the World Unite!” and “Bread Peace & Land” were Communist sayings published often in The Pravda, (marxist.org) and can be compared to the saying “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad!” (Orwell 42) in Animal Farm. “Bread Peace & Land” shows us what the communist promise was: plentiful food, peace, and land for all. Unfortunately, the promise was never delivered. Just as Napoleon used propaganda (Squealer) to his benefit, to keep the animals working and maintain control over Animal Farm, is much like how Joseph Stalin used The Pravda in order to spread fear, fake statistics, and false hope.
In Animal Farm, Moses the Raven was intended to represent the organized religion that threatened socialism and communism. In the book, we are introduced to Moses as “Mr. Jones’s especial pet … He claimed to know of the existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all animals went when they died.” (Orwell 32) Sugarcandy Mountain represents heaven, and Moses the Raven’s message is that animals should accept their injustice as it was only temporary because they were all going to heaven after they had been worked to death. His message also implies that by focusing on the idea of a paradise after death, the animals task of building a better world for themselves in this life wasn’t important. Moses is also similar to a priest, because in the book it states “the animals hated Moses because he told tales and did no work” (Orwell 32) as priests didn’t do real labour like common workers. At first it bothered the pigs, because at first they wanted the animals to focus on how great a place Animal Farm could be. Soon, Moses leaves the farm, only to reappear later on in the book, but now, things had changed and the pigs weren’t in such a hurry to get rid of him. “A thing that was difficult to determine was the attitude of the pigs towards Moses. They all declared contemptuously that his stories about Sugarcandy Mountain were lies, yet they allowed him to remain on the farm, not working, with an allowance of a gill of beer a day.” (Orwell 88) The pigs now let Moses hang around, because by now they see the value in having their workers listen to Moses and go about their daily tasks with good behavior and with minimal fuss. The real life equivalent of Old Major is Karl Marx (Orwell 16) as Karl Marx was the father of Communism as Old Major was the father of Animalism. Karl Marx once famously wrote, “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.” (Marxist Internet Archive) Napoleon and Squealer represent major political figures for Communism in Russia during the Russian revolution, they didn’t like Moses very much as always talked about a better place, but in death, he represents religion, and as Karl Marx described it, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” When Marx says “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions,” he means religion is what happens when the oppressed, the heartless, the soulless need something to hang on to. Once Moses returned, we don’t see the Animal Farm as prosperous or happy under Animalism as originally once thought, when Moses started speaking about Sugarcandy Mountain, the pigs realize they had become the oppressors, and after the animals suffered heavy propaganda and forced labor, Moses the Raven became the sigh of the oppressed creature.
What happened with Squealer and propaganda and Moses and the promise of religion is the result of when an individual in power has puts their own concerns above everyone elses’. That when Squealer ministered lies to the animals is similar to how the Communist Party spread propaganda along during the time and the censorship in Russia in 1712 allowed for exploitation of the people by powerful figures in the Communist Party. The moment that the pigs and Stalin suddenly tolerated Moses the Raven and organized religion is when they found the need for their people to have faith in the existence of a “better world” and is when they slowly become the oppressors rather than the revolutionaries. In the end, in order to benefit majority, it is a matter of balancing individual rights with the responsibilities. If those in power aren’t willing to make those sacrifices and fulfill their individual responsibilities then everyone’s societal interests and needs will be harmed.
- Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Pravda.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 Oct. 2016, www.britannica.com/topic/Pravda.
- Orwell, George. Animal Farm. Rosemead High School English 1P Unit 4 Reader. Rosemead: EMUHSD, 2018. Print.
- Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. Modern History of the Arab Countries by Vladimir Borisovich Lutsky 1969, www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch04.htm.
- Marx, Karl. “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. Marxist Internet Archive. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
- “Pravda.” Ohio River – New World Encyclopedia, New World Encyclopedia, www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Pravda.
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