Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Monday, April 19, 2010

On Christopher Hitchens and Orwell's Animal Farm

'The most blatant of these [alterations of the historical record in Orwell's Animal Farm] concerns the character of Napoleon. It is clear that Napoleon represents Stalin, just as Old Major is Marx and Snowball is Trotsky. Who then represents Lenin? Since Orwell depicts the Rebellion as led by two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball, one is forced to the conclusion that Napoleon also represents Lenin. Thus in Animal Farm the figures of Lenin and Stalin are merged into one character. This is of enormous ideological significance. The dominant orthodoxies both West and East have always insisted, each for its own reasons, on the continuity of Leninism and Stalinism: the former to discredit Marxism and the revolution itself as the inevitable prelude to tyranny, the latter to claim for themselves the heritage of the great revolutionary....If Animal Farm had contained a separate Lenin figure, this would not in itself have resolved the matter (any more than it does in real life), but it would at least have permitted the continuity to have been questioned within the terms of the text. As it is the merger of Lenin and Stalin in Napoleon forecloses on this possibility, and greatly strengthens the impression of a smooth and inevitable degeneration into dictatorship'.
John Molyneux, 'Animal Farm Revisited', International Socialism journal 44, (Autumn 1989).

'For a Marxist, Orwell's depiction of the rise and fall of the Russian Revolution in 'Animal Farm' is rather problematic due, in part, to his apparent conflation of Lenin and Stalin into one character - Napoleon - or rather the absence of a 'Lenin' character altogether. This implies Leninism led to Stalinism in a crude and ahistorical manner.'
'Snowball', 'A quick question about George Orwell', Histomat blog, 22 August 2005.

'There is, however, one very salient omission. There is a Stalin pig and a Trotsky pig, but no Lenin pig...Nobody appears to have pointed this out at the time (and if I may say so, nobody but myself has done so since; it took me years to notice what was staring me in the face).'
Christopher Hitchens, 'Where is the Lenin pig in Animal Farm?', The Guardian, 17 April 2010.

I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions from the above. However, if Hitchens is worried about the omission of a 'Lenin pig' in Animal Farm, it is interesting to note Hitchen's piece contains no discussion of the pig 'Squealer', the intellectual who prostrates his talents by making propaganda on behalf of the ruling class. One might conclude from this that perhaps Hitchens, an intellectual who has of late acted as a hired prizefighter and defender of the likes of Bush, Blair and Obama maybe found discussing the character of Squealer rather too painful a procress...

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At 3:09 am, Blogger The Immanent Universal said...

Couldn't one read the 'Snowball' character as a conflation of Lenin and Trotsky?

At 1:30 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Well possibly with respect to the period of the 'Revolution' and its immediate aftermath, where the distrust and rivalry between Snowball and Napoleon perhaps also alludes to the reality of the tension between Lenin and Stalin as well - eg over Georgia etc, and Lenin's last testament obviously called for the removal of Stalin.

However, Lenin dies in 1924 - there is no such equivalent moment in Animal Farm - and after that it is clearly the political argument between Stalin and Trotsky that Orwell is portraying - industrialisation (the windmill), international revolution vs socialism in one country etc etc etc - and Napoleon eventually driving Snowball into exile etc etc

Still, interesting point - cheers.


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