Sunday, August 12, 2012

Animal Farm

Some Novels are more Equal than Others!

In August of 1945 a literary bomb was dropped on the world with the publication of George Orwell's Animal Farm.  The reverberations of this book would very nearly match the effects of the atomic devices dropped by B-29's onto Imperial Japan in the very same month.

Nagasaki explosion, August 9, 1945
Orwell had begun writing the book in 1943 during the war, at a time when the west admired and appreciated their Soviet Allies.  The leader of the Soviet Union was given the benign name, "Uncle Joe".  There were many in the allied cause who were secretly spying for the Soviets including SOE trainer Kim Philby.  The queen mother (Elizabeth II's mother) danced with Soviet naval personnel up in Scotland.  General Patton was severely reprimanded simply for not mentioning our Soviet comrades in a wartime speech ("Since it seems to be the evident destiny of he British and Americans to rule the world, the better we know each other the better job we will do.") made in England in April 1944.*  Even the right was in love with the Soviets at this time.

George Patton + George Orwell!?
There were, however,  a prescient few who had noted that something untoward was going on in Soviet controlled Europe.  Churchill wrote to President Truman on May 12, 1945, "What is to happen about Russia...An iron curtain is drawn down upon their front.  We do no know what is going on behind."  (Eisenhower in War and Peace, Jean Edward Smith, p. 433).  On May 8, 1945 General George Patton expressed the postwar situation in an earthier way, "They have allowed us to kick hell out of one bastard and at the same time forced us to help establish one as evil or more evil than the first.  We have won a series of battle, not a war for peace.  We're headed down another long road to losing another peace.  this day we have missed another date with our destiny, and this time we'll need Almighty God's constant help if we're to live in the same world with Stalin and his murdering cutthroats."  Patton: A Genius for War, Carol D'Este, 1995

George Orwell's Animal Farm is a slim novel that changed the world.  In many ways it parallels another slim novel, Voltaire's Candide in offering a devastating attack on Utopian socialism (see earlier post Voltaire Conservative of the Enlightenment, 3/3/12).

V/J Day celebrated, August 1945

In August of 1945 V/J day and the outbreak of peace was being celebrated worldwide and along came George Orwell to put a turd in every one's soup!  Who was the amazing man who did this?
George Orwell,  Eric Blair 1903 - 1950
George Orwell was the pen name for Eric Blair.  He was an Etonian who developed an strong empathy for the the poor and downtrodden; his first book was Down and Out in London and Paris.  A product of Imperial Britain, he longed for a classless society -- "a society of free and equal human beings".  Orwell was a leftist whose principal works (Animal Farm and 1984) are a critique of the leftist super-state.  He was a consistent anti-imperialist who served as  a policeman in Burma.  Orwell was a committed anti-fascist who had volunteered to serve with the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War.  There he witnessed first hand the brutal tactics of Stalin's NKVD henchmen that were directed to purge other Republican parties that did not happen to be communist.  Orwell was appalled by the cynical Hitler-Stalin pact that guaranteed the start of World War II and doomed Poland.

The old white boar, Major in Animal Farm is an allegorical representation of Marx and Lenin.  He could just as easily stand in for Voltaire's Dr Pangloss from Candide who affirms, "that the things of this world are common to all men, and that everyone has an equal right to them."  Major the pig declares, "Only get rid of man, and the produce of our labor would be our own" -- "Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!" Karl Marx.  "All animals are equal," "Whatever goes on two legs is an enemy" and "No animal shall drink alcohol" become commandments of the new Animal Farm.

Major dies before the revolution comes to fruition.  He is succeeded by the pigs Napoleon (Stalin) and Snowball (Trotsky) who immediately lock horns over interpreting the meaning of the revolution.  Napoleon hires a secret police of dogs to keep the other animals in line.  Snowball is forced into exile by comrade Napoleon.  The egalitarian ideals of the revolution are quickly undermined.  The Animal's revolutionary commandments are modified so that an elite group of apparatchik party member (pigs) can drink alcohol and walk on two legs.  They soon undermine the ideals of the revolution and turn them on their head.  By the novel's conclusion, the pigs are drinking alcohol, walking on two legs and having sybaritic parties with the men who they now resemble.  Their revolution which hoped to change the world and usher in a classless society has ultimately changed nothing and introduced a new hierarchy.  The ideology of egalitarianism when ruthlessly enforced leads to a hierarchy of party members with their Dachas on the Black sea.  "Some animals are more equal than others".

Hitler - Stalin Wedding
Orwell writes near the end of Animal Farm, "the animals were called together for a special meeting in the barn.  They were struck dumb with surprise when Napoleon announced that he had sold the pile of timber to Frederick.  Tomorrow Frederick's wagons would arrive and begin carting it away.  Throughout the whole period of his seeming friendship with Pilkington, Napoleon had really been in secret agreement with Frederick."  In spite of Napoleon's accommodations, Frederick launches a savage against Animal Farm shortly afterward.  Frederick is, of course, representative of Hitler.  In spite of numerous warnings from Churchill and others, Stalin was shipping train loads of raw materials to support the Axis war machine's occupation of Europe right up until the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

In spite of the euphoria of peace after the greatest war in mankind's history, Orwell would never forget the lessons of the Spanish Civil war or the Hitler-Stalin pact.

Orwell's Animal Farm is anti-Napoleon in the traditional English style (see earlier post, Horatio Nelson -- Champion of Liberty, 1/15/12).  Orwell equates Napoleon with Stalin in a way that is, perhaps, most unfair to the historic Napoleon.  Orwell is also anti-pig as well.  Why should this particular animal be associated with greed and selfishness?  Why is the lovable pig so frequently demonized?

Orwell was not merely an intellectual and writer.  He put his passionate anti-fascist convictions to the test and enlisted in the Spanish Republican forces during the Spanish civil War.  He was shot through the throat and very nearly died from his wound.  In Homage to Catalonia, his memoir of the Spanish Civil War, he mentions that any wound meant virtually a death sentence in the Republican forces due to the fact that almost of of Spain's qualified nurses were nuns and, therefore, allied with Franco.

George Orwell's dystopic visions in Animal Farm and 1984 provided the West with the intellectual underpinnings of the Cold War.  It was Orwell who in fact coined the term "cold war" in an essay entitled You and the Atom Bomb published on October 19, 1945.**  Christopher Hitchens writes in Why Orwell Matters (http:/, "He was in one sense an early cold warrior."  In his heroic pursuit of truth, Orwell wanted to shed light on the appalling Katyn massacre of 10,000 Polish officers by agents of the Soviet secret police which followed the Soviet invasion of that country in 1939.

Totalitarianism, whether coming from the right or left, was a grotesque betrayal of human values and of the Atlantic Charter's hope for universal freedom;  what's more it was un-English!  Fascism and Communism were two sides of the totalitarian coin that resembled each other the way in much the same way that Napoleon and his absurd fellow pigs resembled the men at the conclusion of Animal Farm.  Stalin's communist police state would need to be contained.  Free people would insist that limitations be placed on the tyrannical power of the state.

* He was actually misquoted for he did in fact mention the Russians but this was not accurately reported.  Here is the full accurate quote, "The British and Americans are two people separated by a common language, and since it is the evident destiny of the British and Americans, and, of course, the Russians to rule the world, the better we know each other, the better job we will do." Patton: A Genius for War, Carol D'Este, 1995

** "We may be heading not for general breakdown but for an epoch as horribly stable as the slave empires of antiquity.  James Burnham"s theory has been much discussed, but few people have yet considered its ideological implications--that is, the kind of world-view, the kind of beliefs, and the social structure that would probably prevail in a State which was at once unconquerable and in a permanent state of 'cold war' with its neighbors."   You and the Atom Bomb, George Orwell.

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