How can Animal Farm be viewed as a warning?

Animal Farm can be viewed as a warning in that it warns against the dangers of sudden, radical change. Old Major's emancipatory ideas may seem liberating, but in actuality, they contain within them the seeds of Napoleon's dictatorship, with its violence, bloodshed, and repression. This is because they advocate the sudden, violent overthrow of one regime and its subsequent replacement by another.

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Though Animal Farm is specifically a warning against the dangers of Soviet Communism as it developed under Stalin, it can also alert us to the dangers of radical change in general. Societies are fragile things, and successive generations of thinkers have argued that any social change should, therefore, be piecemeal;...

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Though Animal Farm is specifically a warning against the dangers of Soviet Communism as it developed under Stalin, it can also alert us to the dangers of radical change in general. Societies are fragile things, and successive generations of thinkers have argued that any social change should, therefore, be piecemeal; reform, not revolution, is the watchword here.

Yet the Animalist revolution is anything but gradual. It is an act of revolutionary violence that drives Mr. Jones from the farm, leaving the animals in charge of their destiny for the first time in their lives. And because the new regime was founded on an act of violence, one shouldn’t be too surprised that it eventually morphs into a ruthless dictatorship.

Running a society according to a blueprint is seldom a good idea. For one thing, societies are much too complex. They should be allowed to develop naturally over time instead of being built from scratch. Otherwise, as in the case of Animal Farm, what we tend to find is that individuals are subordinated to the overriding needs of society as defined by society’s leaders, which in this case means Napoleon and his gang.

A further warning one can glean from the book is the dangers of ideology. Old Major and his followers are utterly convinced that Animalism is always and everywhere completely true. This means that when things go wrong, as they do not long after Napoleon takes power, the regime immediately starts looking for scapegoats to blame for the failures of the system.

As Animalism is always true, then if it doesn’t appear to work, it can only because of deliberate acts of sabotage carried out by counterrevolutionaries. And who gets to decide who is, or is not, a counter-revolutionary? Why, Napoleon, of course.

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Animal Farm is a warning that if people are not careful and vigilant, an idealistic revolution or social change movement will be corrupted by those seeking power. This is done, Animal Farm shows, by twisting and corrupting language.

The pigs never come out directly against the ideals espoused by Old Major that animate the Rebellion. Instead, they constantly twist the words around to mean the opposite of what they are intended. The Rebellion was supposed to insure that the animals did not act like humans and repeat their evils. However, over time, the pigs imitate the humans to the point that they become indistinguishable from them. They change the seven principles of Animalism, reducing it to one absurd and self-contradictory statement that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. Language and propaganda turn the ideals of the revolution upside down.

The book also warns that people need to look at the deeds of the states whose ideologies they admire. Orwell is directly aiming at communists in the West in his period who continued to support Stalinist Russia. The USSR might have continued to use the language of equality and assert that it was creating a workers' paradise, but Orwell wanted people to see what was really going on: if a state is murderous and totalitarian it is no longer communal and Edenic. In Animal Farm, the pigs don't give up the rhetoric of the Rebellion, even if they twist it, but their actions show them to be ruthless, violent tyrants.

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Power and authority are ripe for abuse. That is one warning we can take which seems to apply for all ages of human history, past, present and future. 

If the animals had maintained a vigilant and critical watch over those who launched themselves into power maybe the life of the farm could have lived up to its utopian promise. The watch was not vigilant. Those in power, the pigs, exploited their citizens and abused their power, setting themselves above and outside the rule of law. 

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Animal Farm can be considered a warning to anyone who still believes that Communism can work.  This form of government is always going to fail for the simple reason that in the presence of total power, people can be corrupted.  For example, Napoleon, who in Animal Farm, becomes consumed with his power and in fact behaves worse than the farmer.

Communism, Fascism, or any totalitarian dictatorships, are particularly dangerous in underdeveloped nations.  More than likely the people, the mass majority of them being peasants or poor, will be exploited, and abused, just as they are today in what was once known as Burma.  The poor people, suffering terribly after a cyclone devastated their country, are being held hostage by a military government that refused to allow the U.S. or other nations to help the ravaged country. 

Once allowed in, the relief aid was held back from the starving, dying masses, only to be distributed with pasted on labels of Generals names so that they would get credit for helping the survivors.  A government that goes this far to control through censorship and propaganda is a prime example of why Animal Farm is such an important work. George Orwell warns us that  power corrupts totally and total power corrupts totally.    

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Animal Farm is a warning in several ways. The most immediate and sweeping way is that it warns readers about the unrecognized dangers of Soviet style Communism. Orwell was intimately familiar with socialist ideologies, and he knew how idealists were falling into the trap of believing the propaganda of the regime, and how false it was. Napoleon is like Stalin, and Snowball like Trotsky; this is a direct commentary on their attempts to manage history. More generally, it is a warning about the dangers involved in trying to create any sort of utopian society here on earth.

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