Are more equal than others"
Alexis de Tocqueville has been quoted as saying that the skills used to create marvelous literature do not necessarily produce coherent and well-founded political thought and in most cases one might say that he was right. But that was not the case for English novelist Eric Arthur Blair more commonly known as George Orwell, whose work is characterized by political insight, linguistic clarity and irrefutable literary value, a work that can still inspire almost sixty four years after his death. A keen analyst of his turbulent times, Orwell was, according to Newsweek magazine, the author that put his label on the English literature like no other during his day and is credited for coining terms such as “cold war”, “Big Brother” and “thought police”.
Arguably, his most famous novella, the Animal Farm, was published in 1945, although rejected at first from the publishing house Faber and Faber where poet T.S. Elliot who worked there as a director, claimed that the story’s point of view was “.generally Trotskyite”. The story itself, offers an insurmountable allegoric satire describing the tragic defeat of the expectations raised by the October Revolution in 1917 and simultaneously the defeat of every revolution that concludes in giving excessive and uncontrolled power to a small group of “representatives” –the pigs in Animal Farm-. The lack of freedom and the failure to express the values of the pluralist society- in this case the animal society- allows the unhampered reign of a terrifying apparatus, represented by Napoleon and the group of pigs. Through this alarming depiction of collectivist totalitarianism, Orwell sends an echoing message of freedom. In this point, Orwell’s democratic socialism meets classical liberalism.
Through only 112 pages, in the initial UK edition, the writer recounts the adventures of the animals of the Manor Farm, that under the leadership of two young pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, revolt and drive their owner and exploiter away from the farm, only to be found under an evenly unbearable situation under the new “pigs” regime. In the last pages, when Napoleon, the pig-leader of the farm, forms an alliance with humans in order to hold into power against the repressed humans and animals, the writer leaves little doubt of his story’s central message: power corrupts and pushes the interests of those in hold of it.
After taking the power, the pigs Snowball, Napoleon and Squealer ( Stalin’s protégée Vyacheslav Molotov’s counterpart) form a list of Seven Commandments, a thought system and a means of social control based on the ideas of Old Major, which are:
1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
2. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
3. No animal shall wear clothes.
4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
6. No animal shall kill any other animal.
7. All animals are equal.
a list that is later revisited, and finally changed into the final doctrine “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.
Furthermore, among the distinctions made in this miniature society one of the most interesting is that between “readers” and “non-readers”. Benjamin, the donkey, Muriel, the goat and the pigs. The ability to read, signifies the capacity to understand the power play, and furthermore the capability to choose sides. It can be viewed as a smart commentary for those who do nothing, while understanding the length of a political crime.
In the introduction written by Orwell in 1947, especially for the Ukrainian publication of the Animal Farm, the Soviet Union is characterized as an hierarchical society where the people in charge have no reason to bestow their power, which can be said for any dominant scheme. The references made in the history of socialism and communism are more than obvious. The old, wise Old Major dies before he sees his theories fulfilled an explicit reference to Marx as well as Lenin. Snowball is the scapegoat Trotsky and Napoleon, as implied by the imperial nature of his name, is a not-so-camouflaged version of Stalin who establishes a new dictatorship to replace the older one. Orwell was influenced –although his stance was critical towards him- by the well-known work of James Burnham “The Managerial Revolution” (1941) that predicted the substitution of political debate from a state controlled by a caste of technocrats and bureaucrats that plays the dominant part in a society where capitalism is not working and socialism is never meant to be realized.
If Marx wrote about the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and Lenin tried to define that term as “the unlimited authority based on power rather than laws”, Orwell emphasized in the nature of power itself, stripped from any ideological cloak, a ruthless and impersonal power, “the coldest of all cold monsters” according to Nietzsche.
Ironic as it may seem, the Animal Farm, that cursed book that no one wanted to publish is today one of the necessary school handbooks in the United Kingdom and the English speaking countries in general. But to that day, it is still being censored: in 2002 the book was withdrawn from all public libraries in the United Arab Emirates but not on account of the anti-Soviet propaganda but for the depiction of anthropomorphic pigs, a thing that goes against the values of Islam.
Finally, a paradigm that reflects the whole spirit of the book is the passage in the end of it. The animals can no longer tell apart between pigs and humans, the old and the new oppressors: “Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. 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.”
1. Orwell, George. "Preface to the Ukrainian Edition of Animal Farm (written by Orwell) - George Orwell Links." Preface to the Ukrainian Edition of Animal Farm (written by Orwell) - George Orwell Links. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.
2. Orwell, George. "Animal Farm." , by George Orwell. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.