Little White Lie Orwell & Marx Animalism vs. Marxism Every line I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism, quotes George Orwell in the preface to the 1956 Signet Classic edition of Animal Farm. The edition, which sold several millions copies, however, omitted the rest of the sentence: and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it. It is in Animal Farm, written in 1944 but not published until after World War Two in 1945, which Orwell offers a political and social doctrine whose ideas and ideols can be seen in all of his proceeding works. In an essay published in the summer of 1946 entitled Why I Write, Orwell claimed to have been motivated over the preceding ten years by a desire to make political writing into an art. In the essay, he states that in Animal Farm he had for the first time in his writing career consciously tried to achieve this goal to harmonize political concerns with artistry (Twayne, 17).
Orwell, however, for reasons such as the omitted portion of his preface and misreadings of his novels, has been mislabeled a traitor of Socialism or a hero to the right wing by theorists and critics. His book, besides a parody of Stalinist Russia, intends to show that Russia was not a true democratic Socialist country. Looked at carefully, Animal Farm is a criticism of Karl Marx as well as a novel perpetuating his convictions of democratic Socialism; these are other inherent less discussed qualities in Animal Farm besides the more commonly read harsh criticism of totalitarianism. Orwell and Marx differed in their views on Socialism and its effects on religion and nationalism as well as Socialism’s effects on society and its leaders. Orwell shared many of Marx’s viewpoints, but he did not share with Marx the same vision of a utopian future, only the prospects of a worldwide revolution. Orwell’s work indicates that he had read Marx with care and understanding.
That he remained unconvinced and highly critical does not mean he did could not follow Marx’s arguments; or rather, it could mean that only to a Marxist (Zwerdling, 20). It is in Animal Farm, lesser talked about for the author’s social theories than Nineteen Eighty-Four, that Orwell’s criticisms of Marxism can be seen as well as Orwell’s social theory, which can be seen through a careful reading of what the animals refer to as Animalism. Animalism, as we will see, has its faults and inaccuracies, but Orwell’s use of it is to put forth his own political and social doctrine based on remedying those faults. Orwell’s Animalism, what I believe to be his moderately Marxist-Leninist ideology, is different from the animals’, but it is Orwell’s Animalism that can best be compared to Marxism. Animalism, based on the theories of old Major, a prized-boar of Mr. Jones, is born early on in Animal Farm. The fact that old Major, himself, is a boar implies that political theory to the masses or a theorist proposing radical change and revolution are, themselves, bores, in the eyes of the proletariate more prone to worrying about work and survival. Old Major, however, is able to gather all the animals on the farm except the sleeping Moses, the tame raven, for a speech about a dream he had the previous night.
In his talk, old Major tries to explain the animals’ place in nature and how they can get out of it, very much like Marx’s writing on the social consciousness of the proletariate in A Contribution to the Political Economy and the evil practices of bourgeois-controlled capitalism in The Communist Manifesto. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, wrote Marx, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness (preface to A Contribution.., 363). He also called for revolution by the proletariate in The Communist Manifesto to change the social structure of the state and its distribution of wealth. Orwell agreed with Marx’s social arguments, but as we will later see, disagreed on many of his other beliefs. In Animal Farm, we can see his depictions as man as a social animal and his Socialist ideologies through old Major’s very Marxist speech in the barn: Why..
do we continue in this miserable condition? Because nearly the whole of the produce of our labour is stolen from us by human beings. There, comrades, is the answer to all our problems: It is summed up in a single word Man. Man is the only creature that consumes without producing.. He sets [the animals] to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them from starving, and the rest he keeps for himself.. Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour would be our own..
That is my message to you, comrades: Rebellion! (18-20) Old Major, sanctified by the animals after his talk, is the visionary the animals needed to lead them out of their state of nature. But old Major, who dies three days after his speech is not a prophet nor is he representative of the nature of religion in Orwell’s view of the state, only as the visionary philosopher responsible for perpetuating social change. It is Moses, the lone animal who slept through the speech, that represents religion. Though his name alone invokes an underlying religious meaning, when we look at the character and his interactions with the animals do we see his role as representative of the Church. Moses does no work; he only sits on a pole and tells tales of a mysterious country called Sugarland Mountain, where all animals go when they die.
Moses, like Marx’s view of religious institutions, is a tool of the state. Feeding off crusts of bread soaked in beer (an allegory for the body and blood of the ruling bourgeois) left by Mr. Jones, Moses is his especial pet, feeding lies and stories to the animals to give them something to live for. After old Major’s speech was heard by the animals and his school of thought, to be known as Animalism, began to spread across the farm, only Moses was too stubborn to listen or pay any attention. Interestingly, after the animals successfully revolt, Moses disappears, only to return a little while later, after Napoleon, the eventual totalitarian leader of the animals, uses him as a tool just as Mr. Jones did. He begins to tell his stories again and gets paid in beer, just as he did before with the animals’ leader.
Orwell, unlike Marx, believed religion would not fade away after revolution because there would always be a people hard on their luck and looking for answers to questions and places they can go after they die where life is easier. Later, we will see Orwell’s views on revolutions themselves. Orwell believed in a society that would always have a class of people who would always turn to religion. Not a dystopian theorist, as many believed after Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell was a theorist who was not in favor of any orthodox theories that were naive enough to believe such a class of people would not exist. His books might depict dystopian societies with ruthless leaders, but he did so to convince people how to stave off the ascension of such leaders.
His reasons were simple He favored no society where a leader like Josef Stalin, Big Brother, Napoleon the pig or Napoleon the emperor could emerge to destroy what could be a suitable society based on democratic Socialism. If such a society existed, as it does in Animal Farm, the same problems and social consciousness are still existent. To accept an orthodoxy, wrote Orwell in one of his later essays, is always to inherit unresolved contradictions (Collected Essays.., 411). It is a belief not unlike Leon Trotsky’s view on revolution. Revolution is full of contradictions, wrote Trotsky. It unfolds only by taking one step back after taking two steps forward (Trotsky, xxxviii).
The paradox, however, is that Orwell wanted to show that capitalism was not the only social injustice nor the only cause for dystopian societies while Trotsky wanted to use the revolutionary process to overthrow a government. Orwell believed that a nation would always exist where there are people, thereby allowing for nationalism, something Marx said, just like religion, would fade away after the Revolution. The Revolution in Animal Farm, clearly based on the Russian Revolution, did not keep nationalism from disappearing, a point Orwell makes clear early on. The animals, after revolting, are so proud of their newly formed state, that they take a green tablecloth and paint a white hoof and a horn on it similar to the hammer and sickle of the former Soviet Union. It is a flag that flies over the newly-named Animal Farm and at whose base lies a gun taken from a helper of Mr.
Jones and later, the disinterred skull of the old Major. Looking deeper at Animal Farm, we can see that Orwell’s criticism of Marx through Animalism goes way beyond religion and the nationalism to revolution and the nature of man. The gun that sits at the foot of the flagstaff, besides being a reminder of the Battle of Cowshed, it is also a criticism on the method behind the Rebellion, thereby a criticism on Trotsky’s methods of revolution as well. Whereas old Major’s Animalism preached revolution through working day and night, body and soul, for the overthrow of the human race (20), the animals revolted with war and bloodshed, symbolized by the gun and the war cry of Snowball (Trotsky) at The Battle of Cowshed The only good human being is a dead one. A serious objection by Orwell on Marxism and Trotskyism is their conviction of Socialism’s victory by any means necessary. Though hard-working proletarian Boxer, after a subsequent attempt at taking over the farm by the humans, says, I have no wish to take life, not even human life (49), his damage has already been done, having killed a man.
Boxer, representative of the anti-capitalistic Boxer Rebellion of 1900 in China, may speak of pacifism, but his words are coming from the mouth of a horse who has killed. To Orwell, Socialism through warring was just as decadent as what Socialism was supposed to overthrow capitalism. Orwell did not want war because it would put Socialism on the same scale as its enemy because, as Vladimir Lenin wrote, capitalism led to war not Socialism. Where Animalism stresses a long process and some sort of mechanism, classical Marxism misses the essential nature of revolution as a complex and extended process. It offers no conception of the natural sequence of stages in the revolution (Daniels, 12).
Another criticism Orwell had of Marx was the idea that one man could foresee the future and predict the actions of men, as Marx had done in many of writings. Orwell the novelist could write fictional political tales about the future as he did in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but he believed no man could accurately understand the nature by which man acts. The main weakness of Marxism, wrote Orwell: is the failure of human motives.. As it is, a Marxist analysis’ of any historical event tends to be a hurried snap-judgement based on the principle of ciu bono?.. Along these lines, it is impossible to have an intuitive understanding of men’s motives, and therefore impossible to predict their actions (The English.., 193). It is a criticism evident after the rebellion in Animal Farm, as each …