A highly political novel
There is no question that George Orwell intended Animal Farm to be a strong work of political criticism, and it can be viewed as a reaction to various political tendencies he had observed in both Europe and Russia throughout his lifetime. This is already very clear when studying the book itself and comparing it to history, but Orwell also confirmed this intention when he discussed the book later on.
Furthermore, the political criticism of Animal Farm is unusually direct, as the story contains extremely clear parallels to real-life political situations.
Criticism of the Russian Revolution and Stalin’s rule
Animal Farm is entirely framed as a direct criticism of various events surrounding the Russian Revolution, especially related to Stalin’s (symbolised by Napoleon) role in pulling the newly formed Soviet Union in the direction of a dictatorship.
Interestingly, the Russian Revolution itself is at first presented in a relatively positive light. The initial ideals of ‘Animalism’ (= Communism) are very sympathetic - and Mr. Jones (= Tsar Nicholas II) is described as tyrant who does not care about his ‘people’s’ suffering. Orwell does not seem to question that the revolution itself was justified, although he does note that it was a significant issue that the general population might not have been fully aware of the communist ideals and their implications, and therefore did not really know what they were fighting for (p. 10-11). However, the novel’s ending appears to indicate that while the ideals of Communism are admirable, it is unsustainable and also likely to morph back into Capitalism in the end.
Orwell’s main criticism is focused on the way Soviet society gradually changed after the revolution, putting increasing amounts of control into the hands of the Communist party (led by Stalin), and committing more crimes against humanity in their struggles to remain in power. Eventually, Orwell notes that the Soviet citizens have ended up in a position that is even worse than before (or, at best, just as bad). Orwell also criticises the way Stalin is ready to abandon many of the core principles of the original Communist ideology to suit his needs, as well as his intense use of propaganda and the dramatic means he used to silence political opponents (the most horrific example being the Great Purge of 1936-1938, which led to about one million deaths).
Though Orwell is clearly more sympathetic towards Trotsky (symbolised by Snowball) and his vision for the Soviet Union, he also directs some criticism towards him, as he notes that he also takes part in unjust distribution of resources and that he has an extremely brutal attitude towards enemies of the state. There are also indications that although Snowball/Trotsky has some good ideas, there are still uncertainties about how they would have worked. Orwell indicates that neither would have been a...