Posted On: Wednesday - June 9th 2021 4:31PM MST
In Topics:   Books  Socialism/Communism
This post is not supposed to be a book review [though we'll see how that pans out - Ed]. From commenter MBlanc46's recommendation I read this short George Orwell novel that most of you probably read in high school. (I'm not sure how I skipped it.) It'd be presumptuous to review one of the classics. Peak Stupidity is presumptuous enough to do so nevertheless, but, no, we won't bore the reader with a review*.
This was to be about the evolution of the thoughts of writers that are seen as the classic authors, but that'll be another post, as I just want to write about Mr. Orwell's state of intellectual development at the time of his writing Animal Farm. I know he was a fairly prolific writer in his short period only 15 years (mid-1930s till 1984 in 1949) of writing books, but I'm thinking just of 3 books here. They would be Homage to Catalonia - reviewed by PS here - Animal Farm, and 1984. He wrote Animal Farm at the 70% point in this writing career, so I would assume he'd have had his ideological act together by this time.
I have long heard the expression "four legs good, two legs bad, and especially "some animals are more equal than others" from the book. It is an allegory, using the running of a farm by the animals to demonstrate an ideological point. What is that point?
I should have known better, as Mr. Orwell was said to be a Socialist to the end. From the reading of 1984 the only book I'd read from him until recently, I could not discern that, as it is a warning about absolute Totalitarianism. To me, a warning about Communism/Socialism goes right along with that.
After getting about 1/2 way into the story of the Animal Farm, I realized that the allegory was not what I'd thought for years it was. Mr. Orwell tells a story of how an attempt at Socialism can go bad. He has nothing against the system at all. He wrote this allegory to disparage the problems that he saw with the Soviet Communism that had effected him directly during his time in Spain, fighting for the Commie side in the civil war. It is a pretty specific to the events that unfolded there. In a blog comment** someone noted that the story of the two top pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, was written to be about Lenin and Trotsky. There is the influence of the outside world, the need to always have an enemy to unite the people, well, the animals, the use of literal attack dogs by the Dear Leader, and the historical revisionism and un-personing, such as the USSR was known to practice. (It worked nicely on animals with short memories.)
That's a good, but very specific allegory. I have no problem with anyone writing satirically about the old USSR. Orwell wrote this one at the very beginning of the Cold War, a nice help for those trying to expose the lies of the Communists.
This was not the allegory I had expected, however. It seems everything on Animal Farm would have worked out OK, per Mr. Orwell, had the bad animals not ruined things. (This is very much as he thought the military could run just fine with no chain of command, but equal footing for everyone, in Homage to Catalonia.)
Nah, I'd have rather read a story in which the hardworking horse Boxer finally got fed up with putting in more effort for no reward, as other animals, especially the damn cat, were wanking off. There should have been a page or two about the weekly animal meetings in which the many chickens and their numerous chicks, born to the least-productive egg-laying hens and given the vote at 18 weeks, outvote the dogs, pigs, horses, and sheep, giving themselves large rations. Then, at a subsequent weekly meeting, Muriel the goat, pissed off about the unfairness of it all, goes ahead and eats all copies of the ballots, causing a riot that results in the construction of an animal penitentiary, something they all thought was in their past.
Perhaps, I'm a little harsh on the author. He did, after all, have the pigs decide that their leadership work was worth more pay and better accommodations. That was a big part of the story, of course, but I'm not sure George Orwell actually got it. That's bound to happen because some animals and some people simply ARE better than others, and we can't all be equal. Did he get that?
I don't know, and it sounds presumptuous [yes, it is, VERY! - Ed], but maybe I coulda' written a better Animal Farm. OK, if not me, Ron Paul, how 'bout?
* I'll at least write this again though, as I did for his last book: For all that's decent, and I'm talking to YOU, C. M. Woodhouse, YOU! DO! NOT! GIVE! AWAY! THE! STORY! IN THE INTRODUCTION!, assholes. (Same goes for the preface, but Russell Baker got this.) I know this is a classic that I should have read already, but I haven't, OK? Maybe this is an Orwellian thing.
** On unz.com I guess. I'd thought for sure one of our readers mentioned this, but I can't find that comment for the life of me.