Animal Farm

George Orwell

One reads Orwell if one feels the need to depress themselves as quickly as possible, for whatever reason. Animal Farm is normally considered the left-wing counterpart to the right-wing 1984, but as more time passes, the more I think such labels might not be accurate. Animal Farm is very definitely meant to be a critique of the developments that had undergone in the soon-to-be Soviet bloc countries at the time of its writing, with all the analogues to the fallout between Trotsky, Stalin, and the consequences thereof. While I must admit I found Road to Wigan Pier (also by Orwell) to be far more depressing from a left-wing angle, the storied parable of Animal Farm gives it a certain immortality that Wigan Pier lacks, even if that dangerously removes it from its necessary historical context.

It's therein that lies the rub, strangely enough. This book holds a particular sway in the pantheon of anti-communist education for people who grew up during the Cold War. It took me a while to remember, but my first encounter with the book was in my high school civics halfclass, with all the particularities of the Canadian Catholic system and its under-the-surface right-wing pretensions. It would've been one of those days where the teacher didn't quite have a full lesson prepared, so they just got a wheel-in VCR and played the 01954 animated movie. Many other students would've only seen that heartstrung Disneyesque to just assume “socialism bad” and move on to the next thing school will so thoughtlessly throw at them. I don't think the book was written as anything other than a personal diagnostic, the author trying to work out the exact reason why the bolshevik revolutions went off the rails, despite holding such emancipatory promise. (Considering everything else Orwell wrote, such as Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia, there's no evidence to the contrary.)

History has been unkind to Animal Farm, as it's been retroactively twisted into a propaganda piece against its own will.

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