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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Animal Farm - an allegory of greed, power and exploitation

Today marks the anniversary of the first publishing of George Orwell's revolutionary novel, Animal Farm, which was an allegory of the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union under Stalin. It was also an allegory of the insidious evil of capitalism that exploits the greed and selfishness lurking in the heart of humans.

Capitalists often refer to Animal Farm when criticising socialism and communism as though the book was written in defence of capitalism.

George Orwell was in fact, a democratic socialist. He supported socialism. He did not support Stalin or any other government that abused the principles of socialism. He did not support capitalism.

As background, the book is set on a farm owned by Mr Jones. The animals, including the pigs, cows, dogs, chickens, all feel that they are enslaved and are being used to make farmer Jones wealthy while they live outside and do not receive the full benefit of their labours. This is an allegory of the greed, power, exploitation and inequality that underpins capitalism.

Eventually the animals revolt and drive Mr Jones from the farm. They chant, 'four legs good, two legs bad'.
An allegory of the mindless mantras and slogans that politicians use to manipulate the populace.

Following the revolution, the animals believe that they can be responsible for their own lives, that their labours will benefit all animals on the farm equally. No longer will one person or creature be made wealthy at the expense of others. They even agree on the '7 Commandments of Animalism'. An allegory of the principles of socialism and Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto.

The original 7 Commandments of Animalism 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 another animal.
7. All animals are equal.

Because the pigs are smarter, some of them decide that they will determine how the produce will be shared. Eventually, the aspirational 7 Commandments become a bit cumbersome for the greedy and power-hungry pigs who realise that they can make themselves prosperous by exploiting the efforts of the other farm animals. An allegory of capitalism.

They move into the farm-house, sleep in the beds and drink alcohol. They employ the dogs to keep the other animals under control and outside, to ensure that they work hard without dissent. An allegory of Stalin and the KGB.

The original 7 Commandments are modified by the pigs:

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 with sheets.
5. No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
6. No animal shall kill another animal without cause.
7. All animals are equal.

Eventually, the 7 Commandments are replaced by one phrase:




An allegory of the abuse of democracy by capitalism and the abuse of socialism by capitalist's masquerading as socialists.

The other animals are fed propaganda that explains why things are so much better under the new regime, while history and their memories of the Jones era is rewritten for them. An allegory of every government in the world.

The failure of Animalism becomes apparent when there is no longer any difference between the ruling pigs, who are now wearing clothes and walking on two legs, and the humans, as shown in the following paragraph from Chapter 10:

'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'.

Animal Farm is less an allegory of the failure of socialism and more an allegory of the failure of Stalinism. The book provides no defence for capitalism, expounding the woes of those workers who were exploited by capitalists. It shows the reason for socialism and for the revolution. It also shows that the biggest threat to socialism is greed.

Socialism is about ensuring that all are looked after. Capitalism, at its most ideological, claims that the wealth of the few will trickle down to the rest of society, thus ensuring that all are looked after. In reality, those with wealth accumulate more from the efforts of workers, while allowing as little as possible to trickle down. Workers are essentially working to make the rich richer.

The difference between the economics of Stalin and the extreme capitalism of the western world is minimal:  the labours of the workers are exploited for the few. Both are driven by greed, power and exploitation. Both are based on selfishness and individual gain at the expense of all others.

True socialism attempts to temper greed and the abuse of power, however, it requires a dedication by all to all. It requires that we respect each other and care for each other. Perhaps this is too much to expect when the lies of capitalism pander to the greed within each of us.


Related articles on

1.  The Fruits of Capitalism - rotten to the core

2. Name one successful socialist country

3. Biblical socialism - "to each as anyone has need"

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