George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm obviously satirizes the fate of communism in the Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution. However, the novel’s satire can also seem applicable to many other totalitarian regimes in a number of different ways. Those ways include the following:
- Often, revolutionary movements begin with broad popular support but then descend into dictatorship. The French, Chinese, and Cuban revolutions are good examples in addition to the example of the Soviet Union.
- Often, dictatorships develop a “cult of personality” in which the supposedly flawless leader is venerated as if he were a god. This happened with Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, with Mao Zedong in China, and with Fidel Castro in Cuba. Perhaps the most glaring example of this tendency is the strange Marxist monarchy that now exists in North Korea, in which power has been past from grandfather to son and now to grandson.
- Totalitarian dictatorships almost always present themselves as serving the people (or, in Orwell’s novel, the animals), and indeed they often name themselves as “People’s Republics.”
- Totalitarian regimes often depend on support from propagandists, and the propaganda is often of a transparently shoddy quality, as in the poem in Animal Farm celebrating “Comrade Napoleon.” That poem begins as follows:
Friend of fatherless!
Fountain of happiness!
Lord of the swill-bucket! Oh, how my soul is on
Fire when I gaze at thy
Calm and commanding eye,
Like the sun in the sky,
- Totalitarian regimes are often far worse than the regimes they replace.
- Totalitarian regimes often vilify people who were instrumental in their foundings. This happens in Animal Farm with the vilification of Snowball (representing Leon Trotsky). It happened repeatedly in Communist China during the so-called Cultural Revolution.
- Totalitarian regimes often have to rewrite their own histories.