One of the first outcomes while indulging with any of the Orwellian works is the stark realisation of its remarkable contemporariness. Animal Farm has a unique distinction for itself in this regard, written almost seven decades ago, it is still refreshingly contemporary. Socialist regimes around the world faintly followed the trajectory he so vividly eulogized in this classic work.
First conceived in 1937, Orwell’s experiences in engaging with soviets during the Spanish civil war had convinced him of the viciousness of totalitarian regimes erected under the guise of revolutions. However, it wasn’t until 1943, when the perfect allegory hit Orwell and he combined his vitriolic hatred for totalitarianism with his love for English countryside and produced the terrific book.
Set in Manor farm, the book begins with a deathbed revelation by Old major, which is taken to be Karl Marx and his much appealing treatment of exploitation of the masses. While soon to be banished Snowball, is taken to be Trotsky. Snowball can be seen as a fictionalized opponent in the later chapters that regimes around the world use as an excuse for purges and expulsion. Napoleon is the essential figurehead enshrining within himself the well-witnessed tyrannical, despotic and megalomaniac tendencies prevalent in autocratic rulers, for whom the objectives of revolution should and must be diffused with perpetuations of their rule. The obvious attribution is towards Stalin who had Trotsky banished and killed in Mexico only three years before the book was written.
The working classes are represented by never-tiring draught horse boxer, who towards the very end was convinced of the banality of the regime and its supposedly good intentions. Helpful in this task is the propaganda machine of the animal state, the raven, Moses. The book ends with the terrible revelation that the regime has morphed itself in a way that there is hardly any difference between the exploiters and the rulers.
Animal farm, in a certain sense, can be treated up as a prelude to the acclaimed work of his, 1984. While Animal farm functions as a backdrop of how totalitarian regimes coming into being with their distortions, betrayals and treachery, 1984 reminds us how these regimes manage to survive with thought control, erasing the past and cementing a perpetual present.
One of the prime tasks that Orwell wished to take on with Animal Farm was to convince the world of the similarities between communist dictatorships and fascism. He was the first one to recognise the dangers of being anti-fascist while not being anti-totalitarian. A dichotomy that despite his best efforts, has survived to this day, leaving the crimes of the likes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Castro, largely buried. For this reason alone, Orwell had a tough time getting this magnificent book printed. He was rejected by four publishers and almost lost hopes of getting it published. Yet, 72 years later, it is still in print and still remains banned in communist regimes, which I believe can be worn as a badge of honour for its defiant spirit.