Tuesday 22 September 2015

Communism, Rebellion & Animal Farm

Despite the intent of the author, the book and film animal farm does not serve well as a criticism of communism & socialist revolution. The storyline of the book and film (for those who are not familiar with it) is based upon animals of a farm who overthrow the farmer who is mistreating them and under the guise of equality and liberation from servitude a rebellion against the farmer takes place (as a result of the provocation of not being fed) & the pigs take over and appoint themselves as the new rulers. The pigs then collaborate with other neighbouring farmers, and together they share the profits from the farm with the pigs as the visible rulers and the farmers, invisible abusers, who stay out of sight of the rest of the animals. This resembles the situation currently in most liberal-capitalist western nations; a government is separate from the wealthy minority, but it is run on their behalf thus they are in effect one and the same, despite formally being separate entities.
Despite the claims that this depicts the revolutionary transition from capitalism to communism, the storyline better reflects a revolutionary transition from feudalism to capitalism, in Marxian terms a bourgeois revolution, not a proletarian revolution. The distinction between the two types of revolution is the transition from a single absolute ruler (the aristocrat class), to a government whose power is supported by the capitalists (the former aristocracy) who together from what is now considered to be a societies ‘upper class’ or ‘the 1%’. In the story a specific pig (Napoleon) gains much of his influence through the exile and scapegoating his a fellow revolutionist (Snowball), this looks far more like the relationship which currently exists in the UK between our primary party of capitalists (the Tory Party) and the parties of the political left and allied trade unions, who the Tory party use as scapegoats. The inequality of resources within animal farm closely resembles the situation under the current government’s austerity programme; the workers are given less and less, while the rich who have become an elite class of masters sleep comfortably with full bellies.
According to the story at first there is a democracy, which gives way to a single ruler making unilateral decisions, the pigs begin breaking the laws which they themselves have written, and another pig Squealer is able to convince the other animals that pigs are always morally correct.
Comparing this to the demonization of the poor in Britain; we condemn those people who are out of work as lazy, even in areas where during the financial crisis beginning in 2008 large swaths of industry closed and new jobs were never created. We still demonise people born in different nations as criminals who steal what they want including the jobs of the British.
Is the pack of dogs mentioned in the story which Napoleon used to chase Snowball away so different to the right-wing press who would demonise and convince the people to ostracise any working class hero who would stand up for them? Is this so different from the trade union movement being blamed for lost work days when the number of days lost to striking workers is at an all-time low despite the abuses of our current government?
And with the electoral system, legal system, and degree of wealth inequality we have still alive and strong, are we not still living in a nation where adapting a commandment of animal farm “all people are equal, but some are more equal than others” representative of the nation and world we live in. The value of all people as people is equal, however when it is considered that we blame people who fall on hard times for their own misfortune, the legal system is so expensive to access for poorer people that legal remedy is not open to them are we really so far removed from the idea that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others?
In order for animal farm to represent a socialist society (post-revolution) the society which emerged would not have had a political class, or governance in the form which appeared. For a society the size of a farm, democracy could have occurred on a show-of-hands (or paws) basis, so under the control of the workers or animals whether the society would be socialist, communist or anarchist is an academic distinction, because both communist and anarchist ideals (in there purest form) would not have resulted in one group in total control, having replaced one form of totalitarianism, but with each ‘trade’ (egg production, milk production, machinery operation) would have a representative in the governing body of their own choosing, who could be replaced at any time by the group they were supposed to represent.

The distinction (in my view) between whether the workers cooperative which the farm functioned as was effectively a self-sufficient micro-state (or commune) where the procedure was for internal consumption, which would make it communist, or whether it was for both internal consumption and trade with a network of other cooperatives with full internal democracy under direct control of the workers (the animals) which would make it anarchist it would be functioning as a part of a network of cooperatives without the oversight of a ‘state’ (the pigs) to rule over it.  

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