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Christopher Hitchens on Animal Farm

October 26th, 2010 · No Comments · link

Link: Christopher Hitchens on Animal Farm

With a few slight alterations to the sequence of events, the action approximates to the fate of the 1917 generation in Russia. Thus the grand revolutionary scheme of the veteran boar Old Major (Karl Marx) is at first enthusiastically adopted by almost all creatures, leading to the overthrow of Farmer Jones (the Tsar), the defeat of the other farmers who come to his aid (the now-forgotten western invasions of Russia in 1918–19) and the setting up of a new model state. In a short time, the more ruthless and intelligent creatures – naturally enough the pigs – have the other animals under their dictatorship and are living like aristocrats.

Inevitably, the pigs argue among themselves. The social forces represented by different animals are easily recognisable – Boxer the noble horse as the embodiment of the working class, Moses the raven as the Russian Orthodox church – as are the identifiable individuals played by different pigs. The rivalry between Napoleon (Stalin) and Snowball (Trotsky) ends with Snowball’s exile and the subsequent attempt to erase him from the memory of the farm. Stalin had the exiled Trotsky murdered in Mexico less than three years before Orwell began work on the book.

Some of the smaller details are meticulously exact. Due to the exigencies of the war, Stalin had made various opportunistic compromises. He had recruited the Russian Orthodox church to his side, the better to cloak himself in patriotic garb, and he was to abolish the old socialist anthem “The Internationale” for being too provocative to his new capitalist allies in London and Washington. In Animal Farm, Moses the raven is allowed to come croaking back as the crisis deepens, and the poor exploited goats and horses and hens are told that their beloved song “Beasts of England” is no longer to be sung.

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