I had been meaning to read the book “Animal Farm” by George Orwell for quite some time now, but had never gotten around to actually reading it, until now. The proximate stimulus to do so came after I listened to the “Animal Farm” episode of the excellent “In Our Time” podcast. I should have read it sooner, but as they say, better late than never.
The book is an allegory for the excesses of communism in the former Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. It tells the story of the animals in Manor Farm rebelling against their human owners to establish a fairer farming commune run by the animals themselves. What starts off well slowly devolves into the excesses that communism has become infamous for. There are straight parallels between the key animal characters in the book and historical figures (read the corresponding Wikipedia article for more details).
The beauty of the book lies in the way the author shows the devolution of the initially utopian establishment into the ultimate dystopia shown at the end of the book. Each of the steps seems plausible from the previous step and many of us can relate to chilling parallels in our own society. In particular, the power of propaganda and its use by the powers that be to shape public opinion, even the collective memory, to their own ends is something that every conscientious citizen needs to be acutely aware of.
Even though the book was initially written by the author to warn us about communism, you can see many of the same tactics in use in democratic nations. That is why, even after the fall of communism in most places, this book remains important and becomes a must-read for everyone everywhere.