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An evaluation of George Orwell’s critique of
communism in ‘Animal Farm’

My copy of Animal Farm was obtained by an online purchase of the book. The
name of the publisher is Rupa Publications India and the year of publication is

Animal Farm was a book written by English novelist George Orwell and published
in the year 1945. It is a satirical novella ostensibly about a group of animals who
oust the humans from the farm on which they live. Manor Farm is like any other
English farm, except for a drunken owner, incompetent workers and oppressed
animals. Fed up with the ignorance of their human masters, the animals rise up in
rebellion and take over the farm. They run the farm by themselves only to have it
degenerate into a brutal tyranny of its own. Animal Farm is one level, a simple
story about barnyard animals. On a much deeper level, it is a savage political
satire on corrupted ideals, misdirected revolutions and class conflict. 1


Orwell paints a grim picture of the political 20th century, a time he believed marked
the end of the very concept of human freedom. Animal Farm is constructed on a
circular basis to illustrate the futility of the revolution. 

It is a dystopian, allegorical and a politically satirical novel of the Russian

Revolution and Communist Soviet Union that critiques communism in the Soviet
Union using the ‘fairy story’ style of storytelling to narrate the history of Soviet

The story is based on the animals residing on an English farm where certain
characters are based directly on specific historical figures that represent different
factions of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. These include the Old Major as a
figuration of both Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, the fathers of communism,
Snowball as Leon Trotsky, Napoleon as Joseph Stalin, Squealer represented the
Soviet Press, Boxer represented the male and Clover represented the female
working class and peasant class of the Soviet Union, Mollie represented those
who migrated to different countries, indifferent to the revolution, the Attack Dogs
represented the Soviet Secret Police, Moses symbolized Organized Religion, the
Sheep represented the citizens of the totalitarian state, Mr. Jones as the Russian
Tsar in the early 20th century, Mr. Frederick as Adolf Hitler and the Fascist
Germans, Mr. Pilkington represented the Allies particularly the British and Mr.
Whymper represented the capitalists. Also the battle of the cowshed represents
the Allied invasion of 1918; the battle of the windmill is the Nazi invasion of 1941,
while the windmill itself represents the Five Year Plans.

The story of Animal Farm depicts a revolution in progress and shows how the
ideals that fuel revolutions gradually gives way to individual and class self-
interest. The revolution in Animal Farm, like all popular revolutions, arises out of a
hope for a better future. Revolutions are corrupt in a slow process. Animal Farm
illustrates that process. Orwell emphasizes on the corruption of totalitarian states
early into the story when the pigs take the milk and apples justifying their actions
on the basis superiority and claiming that they are smarter than the other animals
present on the farm, hence they need more nutrition to fuel their brainpower.
This claim of the pigs has no scientific evidence, yet the other animals agree to
their wishes without batting an eyelid on the incongruity behind this claim since
the animals are too ignorant to realize that the ones who need nutrition are
manual laborers. In this way, Orwell makes a point here, showing that
totalitarianism need not be blatant in order to be operating. It can hide under the
guise of “greater good” as it did in the Soviet Union until the totalitarianism
became obvious.

Orwell uses recurring events as part of the storyline of Animal Farm to explain the
predictability of the idea of totalitarianism. The story begins and ends with two
tyrants, the first being Jones and the second being Napoleon. Jones is the
autocratic tyrant (Tsar) and eventually Napoleon ends up taking Jones’ position,
and the two resemble each other. This event can be compared to the real life
events of the Soviet regime as Napoleon essentially becomes Jones just as Stalin
becomes an autocrat after pretending to espouse freedom and equality. This idea
is further cemented in the concluding lines of the novel where animals found it
hard to differentiate between man and pig and pig and man. It thereby becomes
unfathomable to imagine a better future for the Animal Farm as the circularity of
events in Orwell’s novel only leads us to believe that if another rebellion were to
take place; its leaders would eventually come to emulate Napoleon.

The corruption of absolute power is the highlighted theme of Animal Farm. As the
animals hoped to create an equal society for themselves, the pigs because of the
unlimited power they had, manipulated and intimidated the other animals into
subservience because of their greed and ruthlessness of holding absolute power.

While Orwell condemns all forms of totalitarianism in his novel, it is most

explicitly a bitter attack on the Soviet Union. Though Orwell supported the ideas
of socialism, he strongly opposed the descent of communism into totalitarianism
in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. Hence through Animal Farm, Orwell
satirically attacks the Soviet Union by mirroring events from Soviet history in his
Following are the views of the author I am in agreement with. I have attempted to
draw parallels of instances of the Animal Farm with that of the USSR. After
reading Animal Farm, I have come to the following conclusions:
1. Stalin was known to reject the socialist ideal of equality – as early as 1925,
served to justify the increasingly marked social differences within the Soviet
Union and the privileges of the new ruling stratum. It was a society where ruling
class enjoyed the fruits of the worker’s labor. Unskilled laborers and collective
farmers were paid very low wages, but high salaries and special privileges were
offered to those with technical and managerial skills. Ironically, the socialist ideal
of equality for all was abandoned to create an elite of technicians and managers.

In the book, after the humans were overthrown from the Manor Farm, it was the
clever pigs that could think of a way around every difficulty. And though they
didn’t do any work, they ‘directed’ and ‘supervised’ and it was almost natural that
they assume leadership. The benefit received by the pigs was a gradual process.
At first ripened apples and fresh milk were earmarked for the pigs. They then
moved into the farmhouse and took up residence there. Napoleon was now
referred to as ‘Our Leader, Comrade Napoleon’. The pigs would get up an hour
later for work than other animals. Later when the young pigs were born, they
were discouraged from playing with other animals. And a rule was laid down that
when a pig and any other animal met on the path, the other animal must stand
aside. The pigs took to supervising the work of all animals on the farm and all
carried whips. Also, ration and basic amenities for animals kept reducing. On the
one hand, most animals were starving on the other hand; pigs were putting on
weight if anything. To top it off, the Seventh Commandment which once read, ‘All
Animals are Equal’ was now re-written by the pigs as ‘All Animals are Equal. But
some Animals are more equal than Others’.

2. Slowly but surely, Napoleon emerged as a dictator, where his word became
command much like Stalin’s rule. Under Stalin’s regime, the rights of the workers
were curtailed and the trade unions were entirely eliminated. As a result of an
increasing differentiation of wages and salaries, the social privileges of the ruling
bureaucracy were extended. In the book, as time goes by, Napoleon announced
that Sunday morning Meetings were no longer necessary and were a waste of
time. A special committee of pigs was set up to answer any questions related to
the working of the farm, headed by Napoleon himself very similar to Stalin’s rule.
The meets would be held privately and decisions communicated to others
afterwards. Debates that were held on new proposals that were followed by a
vote at the end by all animals, was put to an end.


There was no improvement in the average standard of living. Most survived on

black bread and wore old, shabby clothing. There were constant shortages in
stores. Millions of people were moved to cities to work in factories people.

Unknowingly the animals became subordinates to the pigs. They worked like
slaves, for sixty hours a week. Even Sundays were declared working and the
absentees would have their ration reduced by half. Food fell short, all rations
were reduced except for pigs and dogs and animals were on the brink of
starvation. Due to the construction of the windmill, money was short and to pay
for grain and meal, the hens were forced to surrender their eggs. Form of protest
by the hens, led to a stop of ration supply and the subsequent death of many.
Lanterns in the stalls were forbidden to save oil. It was remarked by Mr.
Pilkington on the working of Animal Farm that, “the lower animals on Animal
Farm did more work and received less food than any animals in the country”.


One thing that children did, during Stalin's rule, was that they would stand in
front of their desks every morning and say "Thank Comrade Stalin for this happy
life", much like the hens in Animal Farm that made remarks like, “Under the
guidance of our Leader, Comrade Napoleon, I have laid five eggs in six days”.
Many people stayed loyal after it was obvious Stalin a tyrant. They were betrayed
by Stalin, who ignored and killed them. He made the masses believe in a socialism
that demanded iron disciple and terror. In the book too, the pigs try to instill fear
in the minds of the animals. They made them believe that if the pigs stopped their
work, Mr. Jones would return.

Stalin seldom appeared in public. He never left the Kremlin unless necessary, and
when he did, he traveled in an American Packard automobile with heavy black
drapes over the windows. While not seen personally, his portrait, statues of him,
books and quotations from his "sacred" writings were everywhere.
Much like Napoleon, who rarely appeared in public and was constantly guarded
by fierce looking dogs that he trained personally. The dogs are symbolic of the
KGB –Secret Police in Soviet Russia.


In the 1930’s Stalin’s efforts to build a new socialist state turned to ruthless police
terror and the purging of the Communist party. People were arrested by the
secret police, tortured into confessing plots, and then tried in show trials.
Eight million people were arrested and disappeared. They were either executed
or exiled to forced labor camps in Siberia from which they never returned.
Everyone had to serve the party without reservation.
Even though people knew that Stalin was wrong, they couldn't whisper
disapproval for the fear of being executed much like the animals that were killed
in public by Napoleon for having sided with Snowball.

During his time in power, Stalin had a complex relationship with religion. He
officially adopted the Russian Communist Party’s stance on religion. The
government that he ran promoted atheism in an effort to make that perfect
society, a reality. Atheism was taught in school and there was a horrid campaign
against any religious belief and its followers. Stalin initiated a nationwide
campaign to destroy churches and religious property and even persecute and kill
church officials.

However, as though Stalin underwent a complete personality change, within a

year after Operation Barbarossa (1941), Stalin reopened the churches in the
Soviet Union. One account said that Stalin's reversal followed a sign that he
supposedly received from heaven. Shortly thereafter, Stalin's attitude changed.
Radzinsky wrote: "Whatever the reason, after his mysterious retreat, he began
making his peace with God. Something happened which no historian has yet
written about”. Radzinsky asked, "Had he seen the light? Had fear made him run
to his Father? Had the Marxist God-Man simply decided to exploit belief in God?
Or was it all of these things at once?"

Moses the Raven is symbolic of Religion. The pigs had a hard time counteracting
the lies spread by Moses. He claimed to know of the existence of a Sugarcandy
Mountain, where life was easy and peaceful. The pigs had to persuade the other
animals, some of whom were believers, that there was no such place. Towards
the end of the book though, we see that the attitude of the pigs towards the
Raven is difficult to understand. Although they completely dismissed his stories
about Sugarcandy Mountain as lies they still allowed Moses to ‘remain on the
farm with an allowance of a gill of beer a day’.


Stalin replaced those whom he had purged with new party members, more than
half of whom were in their thirties, a Stalinist version of yuppies. Many were
children of workers who had studied at the new technical schools and were
placed in government and management positions. Most of them remained loyal
to Stalin through his death in 1953 and governed the Soviet Union until the
Akin to the depiction in the book, wherein pigs and dogs were educated and
trained a separate way. The pigs took to studying blacksmithing, carpentering,
and other necessary arts from books.


In his first political article Marx discussed the importance of the ‘freedom of the
press’. “The essence of a free press is the principled, reasonable, moral essence of
freedom. The character of a censored press is the unprincipled aberration of
unfreedom, it is a civilized abomination, a perfumed monster,” Marx wrote. Marx
sharply condemned government control of the press: “A censored press has a
demoralizing effect… The government only hears its own voice, yet it persists in
the delusion that it hears the voice of the people and in turn demands of the
people that they should persist in this delusion.”

Censorship in the Soviet Union was pervasive and strictly enforced. Works of print
such as the press, advertisements, product labels, and books were censored to
safeguard top secret information. Censorship of film was commonplace since the
USSR’s inception. Acting as the chief censor for films, Stalin was demanding
meticulous revisions in a way befitting his interpretation, as if a co-author.
I disagree with the author based on the following observations:

1. Orwell states that no good comes out of a communist state. Though the pigs
turn out to be invariably corrupt, they did stimulate technological growth on the
farm with the building of the windmill. The building of the windmill took place
rapidly in view of stimulating the economic growth of the farm. Also, events from
Soviet history tell us about the rapid economic growth such as rapid
industrialization that took place in the Soviet Union under the communist regime
as compared to the Western democratic nations. From 1928 – 1985, Soviet Russia
did record an economic upheaval as compared to the Western economies. In
1952, Soviet industry produced about 6.5 times as much as it did at the beginning
of the five-year plans in 1928. In heavy industries the gains were even greater.
Steel production increased eightfold, coal 8.5 times and electric power 23 times.
The Five-Year Plan substantially helped to modernize the previously backward
Soviet economy. New products were developed, and the scale and efficiency of
existing production greatly increased. In a quarter-century the U.S.S.R. became
the world's second industrial Power.

2. Communism unites the people of the state making them immensely patriotic
towards their motherland. It is always observed that under a dictatorship, the
patriotism prevalent in the country is at its peak which orchestrated through the
various instruments of propaganda such as songs, speeches etc. The removal of
the common enemy, the humans, unified the animal farm into working
dedicatedly for the greater good and progress of the farm which they would have
not worked for so efficiently had they not been made to realize their duties
towards the farm through patriotic speeches and songs. This kind of patriotism
was also exhibited by the people under the Soviet Union. Culture became
completely politicized through constant propaganda and indoctrination. Party
activists lectured workers in factories and peasants on collective farms.
Newspapers, films, and radio recounted socialist achievements and capitalist
plots. They were unified and a great sense of patriotism was instilled in them
making the state strong internally.

 Charles' George Orwell Links - Biographies, Essays, Novels, Reviews, Images.

(n.d.). Charles' George Orwell Links - Biographies, Essays, Novels, Reviews,
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 Joseph Stalin. (n.d.). Animal Farm. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from
 Joseph Stalin. (n.d.). History.com. Retrieved June 25, 2014, from
 Joseph Stalin. (n.d.). About.com 20th Century History. Retrieved June 26,
2014, from http://history1900s.about.com/od/people/ss/Stalin_6.htm
 Joseph Stalin. (n.d.). Nations Wiki. Retrieved June 28, 2014, from
 Leonhard, W. (1970). Three Faces of Marxism: The Political Concepts of
Soviet Ideology, Maoism, and Humanist Marxism. New York: Capricorn
 Orwell, G. (2010). Animal Farm. New Delhi: Rupa Publications India.
 Top 10 Examples of Religious Persecution. (n.d.). Akorracom RSS. Retrieved
June 27, 2014, from http://akorra.com/2012/01/11/top-10-examples-of-