Marxist Criticism Is Always Concerned with the Class Struggle in History.

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The main aim of Marxism is to bring about a classless society. Thus the reason I chose to study George Orwell's Animal Farm is because its characters share (originally) this same ambition. Animal Farm represents the oppressed masses rising up and forming a 'classless' society of their own. While offering a critique of communism in general, the book also serves to act as a mirror of Soviet Russia under Stalin. As reflected throughout the text, it was no secret Orwell considered Russia, and consequently Communism, a counter-revolutionary force that would inevitably become corrupted by greed and power. Indeed, perhaps in order to go further in offering a Marxist reading of the text, it is necessary to pass judgement on the author and the epoch in which the book was written. In doing so, I hope to show just how progressive (or anti-progressive) the book is.

From almost the very beginning of this book it possible to see Orwell's criticism of Karl Marx, displayed through 'Old Major'. Many of the characters in the book symbolize real political figures. 'Old Major' is very much like Karl Marx, at times he appears single minded and unrealistic. Before his death 'Old Major' gave an unwavering speech stating no animal should ever "touch money, or engage in trade" . This is clearly a direct criticism of Karl Marx's naivety, as shown later through Orwell's narration:

Never to have any dealings with human beings, never to engage in trade, never to make use of money - had these not been among the earliest resolutions passed at the first triumphant meeting when Jones was expelled?

It soon becomes clear that 'Animalism' (which bears a striking resemblance to communism) is a system that cannot be maintained the way originally intended. The morals that, at first, rule on the farm become controls. The animals effectively split themselves into 'classes'. This class splitting becomes accepted as normal through a process of Hegemony . As described by Raymond Williams, hegemony is a form of social control that becomes accepted as 'normal' after becoming the predominant influence. Indeed the notion of hegemony is closely related to a concept developed by the French Marxist Louis Althusser. Althusser's theory of Ideological Structures becomes hugely relevant when applied to Orwell's political satire. These Ideological structures are effectively institutions that prevent the masses causing a revolution. In the case of religion for instance, a Marxist would suggest that it prevents a revolution by imposing the notion that you will be rewarded in the 'after-life', for all you put up with in this life. The manor in which religion is depicted in Animal Farm leads one to think that Orwell was not a particularly religious man, and in this instance at least he would have agreed with Marx's views on the subject. Here religion is portrayed through the aptly named Moses, the raven. Moses refuses to listen to the rebellious speech given by Old Major, though later preaches about a magical place for all animals called 'Sugar Candy Mountain'. In Animal Farm the pigs work hard to convince the other animals that 'Sugar Candy Mountain' (heaven) does not exist, though, significantly, this is done before the rebellion takes place. This shows a slightly hypocritical side to Marx's work because after the rebellion takes place the pigs are keen to enforce their own ideology on to the other animals (proletariat), leading to the important question 'Is the will of the people also transferred to their leader"' In this instance the answer seems to be a resounding 'No'. However on second reading, it could be argued that, up until the very climax of the book, the animals actually get what they want. One gets the impression that in offering a true Marxist critique of the book, it is actually the case that the animals do achieve their top priority; ousting man. In this sense they do become free (from man at least) and it is only their subsequent inability to grasp the...
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