The October Revolution was the second part of the Russian Revolution that took place in 1917. (Britannica. 2013). In George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, the author bases the animal’s rebellion against Mr. Jones around the occurrences during the October Revolution.
The October Revolution of 1917 was the revolution where the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, came into power. (2013). The revolution followed shortly after the February (March) Revolution took place, which forced Nicholas Tsar II, the former Russian Emperor, to fall from power. (BBC. n.d.).
Causes of the Revolution
The October Revolution was said to have been caused by a number of factors. After Nicholas Tsar II was abdicated from his throne, a provisional government was formed to govern Russia until a new emperor could be elected. (Smitha. n.d.). However, the Provisional Government were unable to deal with a number of problems, as listed below:
Before Nicholas Tsar II was abdicated, lands were often given to the noblemen and not the peasants. (Wikipedia. 2013). Once the provisional government was in charge, the peasants attempted to steal the land. (History Learning Site. n.d.). However, the government sent soldiers to stop the peasants from doing so, and took back the land through brute force. As a result, many peasants were left in need of land for work and shelter. (n.d.).
Economic problems were present even before the Tsar was abdicated. (BBC. n.d.). Due to the ongoing war, food supplies were limited and resources prices continued to increase. (n.d.). However, the Provisional Government made little effort to resolve this issue and as a result, many citizens were unable to afford adequate resources and suffered from hunger and starvation. (n.d.).
After the February Revolution, many people were hoping that war would end. (History Learning Site. n.d.). However, the Provisional Government overlooked this, and launched an unsuccessful attack on Germany in July 1917. (Wikipedia. 2013). This took a huge toll on Russia's economy, and demoralized the military troops. (BBC. n.d.).
Relations with the Soviet Union
Cooperating with the Provisional Government, the Petrograd Soviet (a worker's union). "forbade people to obey the Provisional Government unless the Soviet agreed." (JohndClare.net. n.d.). As a result, the Provisional Government had little power over making decisions and taking action in solving problems. (n.d.) However, they did not deal with this issue, and the Petrograd Soviets continued to have great power. (BBC. n.d.) .
The above reasons caused many working class citizens to suffer, and also weakened the Provisional Government. The ongoing war, in particular, “discredited the Provisional Government, and strengthened the appeal of the Bolsheviks.” (BBC. n.d.).
Bolsheviks Taking Action
Lenin gaining support from Petrograd Soviet
Lenin, seeing this ‘opportunity’ rise, took advantage of the situation and got support from the masses. (BBC. n.d.). Visiting Petrograd, Lenin was able to gain support from the Petrograd Soviets, a worker’s council representing the working class citizens of Russia. (Britannia. 2013). He created the slogan “peace, land and bread” which outlined the Bolshevik’s goal of ending war, solving food shortages, and offering land to peasants in need. (2013). Leon Trotsky, being appointed as chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, began to plan for the Bolshevik’s revolution which he believed would take place in October. (Wikipedia. 2013). He trained the Red Guards - military troops composed of factory workers and peasants working for the Bolsheviks - making sure “all the vital areas of Petrograd were effectively in [the] Bolshevik hands.” (BBC. n.d.).
Day of the Revolution (October 24th - October 26th)
The October Revolution
On October 24th, 1917, the Bolsheviks took control of the city, where units of the Red Guards seized control over governmental buildings in the area. (n.d.). They captured strategic points and key buildings, blocking off escape paths in the process (Britannica. 2013).On the 25th and 26th of October, shortly after the incident, the Bolsheviks sent battleships and raided the Winter Palace. (2013). They overthrew the Provisional Government, and power shifted to the Bolsheviks. (BBC. n.d.).
Aftermath of October Revolution
Decree of Peace
After the Soviet Government was formed, the Bolsheviks fulfilled their promises towards the Petrograd Soviet. They issued the Decree on Peace, which prevented further war and conflicts within the country, and signed a Brest-Litovsk Treaty in 1918, removing Russia from the battles of World War I. (Wikipedia. 2013). Additionally, a Decree on Land was passed, which issued the distribution of land to peasant workers in need, and also abolished the ownership of land for the upper-classed people. (2013).
Following the incident, the Russian Civil War occurred between the Bolsheviks and the counterrevolutionaries. (McKinney. n.d.). Stalin was promoted from the editor of the Pravda to the Commissar for Nationalities' Affairs. (Britannica. 2013). Trotsky, on the other hand, became the Commissar of Foreign Affairs, the Military Commissar, and the leader of the Red Army. (Britannica. 2013). Trotsky was soon exiled, and Stalin established his totalitarian regime. (2013). Lenin's decrees and policies were negated, and Stalin developed his own land reforms and economic policies. (Pereira. n.d.).
Tying it Back to the Novel
Calling a 'Revolution' a 'Rebellion'
In context to the novel, Orwell uses the idea of the Rebellion in Animal Farm, to portray the plot of the October Revolution. The way he names the revolution, for example, portrays the unsuccessfulness of the rebellion. From the start, one of the most notable difference between the two events is the name of the event. Although it is called a 'revolution', Orwell named it a 'rebellion'. The difference between these two phrases has a huge connection towards Orwell's intentions in the novel. Whereas a revolution is noted as the overthrow of a system of regime governing a group of people, a rebellion is on the act of resistance towards a regime that may or may not lead to a revolution. (Stack Exchange. 2012) In a nutshell, revolution is a successful overthrow of a regime, while a rebellion may not.
In context to the novel, Orwell portrayed the October Revolution as a rebellion, conveying the revolution's inability to overthrow the pre-existing regime. In the novel, the story begins with Old Major outlining his "utopia" where animals were freed of all sufferings. (Orwell. P. 4 - 5) During the Rebellion, the animals achieved this, and changed the name of the farm from "Manor Farm" to "Animal Farm". (Chapter 2) However, Napoleon takes over and enforces totalitarianism into the farm. (P. 39) As a result, in Chapter 10, he states that the farm's name was reverted to "Manor Farm", inferring that the farm reverted to how it was before the Rebellion came about. The animals' attempt to overthrow the original regime can be compared to the October Revolution, which aimed to fulfill Lenin's dream of equality, but was diminished under Stalin's. In both scenarios, a "revolution" was made to overthrow the original regime, but was altered by the totalitarian regime. Hence, the resulting regime was indifferent from what it was before. Orwell highlights the fact that the "utopia" was never achieved, and the revolution was unsuccessful. Instead of "the Revolution", Orwell refers to the event as "the Rebellion". Doing so emphasizes the failure behind the October Revolution, caused by Stalin's dictatorship.
Causes of the Revolution
Additionally, the causes of the Rebellion are quite similar to that of the revolution. As stated in the book, the animals of Manor Farm were suffering from Mr. Jones’ governance. Old Major, the pig, criticized how “man is the only creature that consumes without producing”, adding that all the resources the animals produce ‘has gone down the throats of [their] enemies,” human beings. (P. 4) The speech Old Major made outlined the food, slaughtering and slavery the animals were going through, which acted as a catalyst to the rebellion. In context to the October Revolution, Old Major can be seen as a representation of Vladimir Lenin, who used the people’s dissatisfaction towards the government as a method of starting a revolution. The speech he made in front of the animals, for example, is analogous towards Lenin’s visit to the Petrograd Soviet, where he outlined his ‘peace, land and bread’ policy, and gained support from the peasants and working class citizens. Additionally, Old Major’s mentions of food insufficiency mirrors the limited food supplies the people were facing prior to the October Revolution. His claims upon man’s inability to provide adequate food for the animals alludes towards their poor governance of the farm. This idea ties in with the Provisional Government’s inability to resolve issues regarding the economy and land distribution, building a strong connection between the two events. The slaughtering of animals in particular, can be inferred as Orwell’s method of portraying the deaths of the Russian troops during the unsuccessful attack towards Germany.
Orwell's intentions of putting Old Major's speech at the start of the novel clearly advocates the "utopia" the animals wish to achieve. The way he described mankind portrays them as devious, brutal, and corrupt beings. Although it does not link in with the Provisional Government, Orwell may have described the humans in such a way to make them look like a villain from a novel. The animals, which Old Major shared his ideas with, can be seen as the heroes to the novel, who will eliminate all terrible inequities in the farm. Using persuasive language in his speech, Orwell incites Old Major's idea of overthrowing mankind, hence illustrating a "fight between good and evil" concept within the novel. This produces a heroic atmosphere, which further strengthen's the readers' insight towards the animals' ambitions, making the rebellion more powerful in the story.
Day of the Revolution
As the Rebellion progressed, the plot line continues to parallel the October Revolution. This is particularly significant on the day of the Rebellion, when Mr. Jones got drunk and left the animals unfed. (P. 11 - 12) The animals raided the farm, destroying “everything that reminded them of Mr. Jones.” (P. 13) In this section of the novel, Orwell used the animal’s rebellion over Mr. Jones as a way of portraying the day of the October Revolution. Mr. Jones getting drunk and forgetting to feed the animals, for example, can be interpreted as a way of conveying the situation the Provisional Government was in. Following the economic crisis, as well as the unsuccessful offensive against German troops, the Provisional Government was heavily weakened and had little support from the people. This ‘opportunity’ allowed the October Revolution to take place, of which can be related back to the Rebellion. The drunk Mr. Jones, for example, can be analogous towards the weakened Provisional Government, and the infuriated animals, can be symbolic to the powerful Bolsheviks army that was supported by the Petrograd Soviet. The huge contrast between Mr. Jones and the animals can be seen as Orwell’s method of showing the difference in power the Bolsheviks had compared to the Provisional Government, exemplifying the Bolshevik’s success in the revolution.
In this scene, Orwell further emphasizes the joy the animals experience after the Rebellion, by detailing the animals' attack as Mr. Jones is expelled from the farm. Orwell emphasizes the victoriousness the animals experience following their success in the rebellion, denouncing Mr. Jones and his men in the process. In the novel, Orwell describes the animals' joy over the rebellion, how they sang the 'Beasts of England' seven times, using words like 'good fortune', 'glorious', 'excitement' to bring an uplifting atmosphere to the novel. The victoriousness Orwell portrays in the novel, can be interpreted as his method of advocating the Bolsheviks' success over the Provisional Government. He makes the animals look like heroes, and the farmers look like villains, exaggerating the rebellion and bringing out the animals' joy over their victory.
The reason Orwell portrayed the October Revolution in such a way, may allude towards his aim of producing a satire in the novel. As seen throughout the novel, the main concept of achieving a "utopia" was an example of situational irony. The animals aim to bring about equality, and yet, the pigs are governing them throughout the revolution. By emphasizing upon the animals' glory over their victory, Orwell aims to create a contrast between their joy and their depression at the end of the novel, focusing on their sufferings. The use of the Rebellion can then be seen as Orwell's method of strengthening his skepticism over the 'socialism' and 'equality' the Soviet Union wants to achieve, believing that everything went wrong at the turn of the October Revolution.
The roles Snowball and Napoleon played in the Rebellion also mirrors that of Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. In the novel, Snowball and Napoleon led the animals into the farmhouse, and where they destroyed everything that reminded them of Mr. Jones. (P. 13) Similarly, in the October Revolution, Leon Trotsky led the Red Guards into the Winter Palace, where they overtook the Provisional Government and gained power. Trotsky, who has been portrayed by Snowball, played a huge role in leading the Red Guards in the invasion and attack. In relation to the novel, the animals that followed Snowball can be depicted as the Red Guards that infiltrated the Provisional Government. Although there was little mention of Stalin’s role on the day of the revolution, he was noted for taking actions behind the scenes, making escape routes and providing backup, although it was less prominent than that of Trotsky. This is also projected in the novel, where Napoleon was only involved in assisting Snowball, even though Snowball was doing most of the work. Through the roles these two characters played in the revolution, the connection between the Rebellion and the October Revolution is less transparent. Although Napoleon’s role was less emphasized, Orwell focused on the role Snowball and the animals played during the Rebellion, which parallels the Bolshevik’s attack during the October Revolution, strengthening the relationship between the two events.
By mainly focusing on Napoleon and Snowball's role in the October Revolution, Orwell has successfully brought the reader's focus onto the two characters, rather than the Rebellion on the farm. Although the Rebellion was made to bring out the situational irony, readers can also see it as a form of supplementing the protagonist and antagonist of the story. By emphasizing the roles Napoleon and Snowball played, Orwell portrays their importance in the farm. In most parts of the chapter, Orwell addresses the animals using common nouns, including 'horse', 'cows', 'sheep', etc. However, in contrast, he addresses Napoleon and Snowball using proper nouns, of which directs the readers' focus on these two characters. As a result, rather than using the two characters to build up the scene of the Rebellion, Orwell uses the scene to instead, build up the focus on Napoleon and Snowball. Doing so has allowed the readers to familiarize themselves with the characters, highlighting their importance in the novel.
Aftermath of Rebellion
In relation to the novel, the events that took place after the Rebellion mirrors that of the Russian Revolution. In the novel, Orwell mentions how the animals fulfill Old Major's wishes by listing the Seven Commandments, which aimed to fortify the animals' policy to revolt against mankind. (P. 15) As the revolution progressed, the Battle of Cowshed took place, and the animals fought against neighbouring farms. (P. 23) Additionally, Snowball set up many committees, grouping the animals up based on the role they played in the farm. (P. 20) In context to the revolution, the Bolsheviks engaged war with counterrevolutionaries, which was portrayed in the Battle of Cowshed. The different committees that Snowball made, reflects upon the different roles he played after the October Revolution (See more: Leon Trotsky). By utilizing the different examples, Orwell fortifies the connection between the October Revolution and the Rebellion, depicting the events that occurred during and after the October Revolution.
Although Orwell manages to parallel the major events that occurred in the novel with the Russian Revolution, he does not clearly address how the Bolsheviks resolved the "peace, land and bread" issues with the Soviet Petrograd. As mentioned in Old Major's speech, the only way the animals can achieve a "utopia" is to resolve issues regarding the killing of animals, the manual labour animals are suffering, and the insufficient food supplies the animals live with. This ties in with the "peace, land and bread" policy, which stated that the Bolsheviks will resolve issues amongst these three areas after the revolution. However, even after the war, Orwell does not mention how the animals resolved these issues, and immediately details upon Snowball and Napoleon's roles after the Rebellion. Readers who have read the entire novel may also find that after Chapter 1, the animals in the farm never specifically recounts Old Major's idea of stopping slavery, revolting against mankind, or dealing with food shortages, suggesting that Orwell left it out of the novel on purpose.
Relating back to the Russian Revolution, we see that the Bolsheviks did establish a Decree of Land, a Decree of Peace, and Lenin was planning to set forth a new economic policy. However, after Lenin's death, Stalin took control and changed the regimes in the Soviet Union. By implementing his idea of "Socialism in One Country", Stalin enforced the 5 Year Plan, which led to new land reforms and completely eliminated private ownership. He created his own economic policy, and had war against those who disobeyed. From this, we see that Stalin has completely opposed Lenin's ideas and implemented his own ideas instead. As a result, Lenin's policies, in a sense, were not achieved, and acted as a stepping stone for Stalin to develop his own regime. From this standpoint, readers could then suggest that Orwell purposely did not show how the animals resolved the issues in Old Major's speech, to show how it had no relevance to the message he was trying to communicate. Although Orwell may have felt it did not support his skepticism towards Stalin dictatorship, he might have also left it out, to intentionally show how Old Major's speech was left forgotten, and the animals never managed to attain the "utopia" Old Major described in chapter 1. By doing so, Orwell further shows how Lenin's ideals were never met, and criticizes Stalin and Trotsky for their inability to lead the Soviet Union towards the "utopia" they wished for.
By mirroring the plot of the Rebellion with the October Revolution, Orwell has provided adequate examples to show the connection between the two events. Using the roles Napoleon and Snowball played in the Rebellion. Orwell has further portrayed examples of their relation with Stalin and Trotsky. Additionally, he uses the revolution to further emphasize the satiric language in the novel, pointing out the flaws in the Soviet Union's "utopia". Nonetheless, the October Revolution has played a huge role in Orwell's novel, and he has successfully portrayed it in an exaggerative manner.
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