In my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of Socialism as the belief that Russia is a Socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated. And so for the past ten years I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the Socialist movement.
That's Orwell from his Preface to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm
. As far as I'm concerned, he achieved his goal. Socialist Orwell, who was shot through the throat while fighting with the Trotskyists in Spain against the Fascists (!), attacks Stalin's (Napoleon the pig) brand of totalitarian State Capitalism through a simple animal tale. Major (Lenin) and Snowball (Trotsky) come off as honorable revolutionaries trying to improve the lot of poverty-stricken workers; Stalin's depicted as a murderous tyrant propped up by a cult of personality, propaganda, and fear. Mission accomplished.
It's infinitely interesting to me that Orwell, a leftist himself, did not use Animal Farm
to attack rightists and fascists. Instead, he attacked other leftists, specifically the English intellectuals who refused to condemn WWII ally Stalin despite knowledge of his brutality. The issue exists today as well, with Stalin Societies and North Korean Friendship organizations acting as apologists for the questionable tactics of Communist dictators from Kim Jong Il to Fidel Castro to Chairman Mao. Orwell's critique of the state of the Socialist movement resonates as much today as it did in the mid 1940s. Almost 70 years later, Animal Farm
remains a must read for middle schoolers (when I first encountered the book) and middle agers (me now) alike.
I haven't even mentioned the perfect, disturbing illustrations of Ralph Steadman. If you've seen his work in Hunter S. Thompson's [b:Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas|7745|Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas|Hunter S. Thompson|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1333056001s/7745.jpg|1309111], you know Steadman's drawings suit an account of a drug-addled road trip. They also mesh perfectly with this revolutionary-to-reactionary tale of dwindling hope. The 50th anniversary edition of Animal Farm
brings together an important story and terrific supporting artwork into one heck of a whole. I loved it, and recommend it highly.