Orwell's main focus is a critique of communism and he builds it around a satirical look at the major events that helped to bring about a communist state in Russia and the growth of the Soviet Union.
He questions the communist outlook on religion, the communist record when it comes to civil and humanitarian rights, and one of the most dynamic issues is that of class and class conflict. The animals themselves represent various historical figures in the communist movement and the struggles they have also represent specific events within the history of communist Russia, the Soviet Union.
Throughout all of these issues Orwell also questioned the use of propaganda by a state to achieve its goals, the manipulation of truth and falsehood, etc.
To me, the most important issue that Orwell raises is that of how a society like the one in the book can come to be. I think it is not that important (though historically interesting) that the book is based on Russia or that it is about communism. That stuff is in the past -- but this book can be relevant to the future.
What is interesting to me is the way that the pigs use propaganda to take and keep control of the society. I am also interested in what conditions make it possible for them to succeed -- why do the animals let them?
So, to me, this is the major issue Orwell raises -- how is it possible for people in a society to come to be dominated by their leaders?
Additionally, Orwell raises the question of whether or not Utopias can actually exist. In this instance, the idea of a community in which all work according to their ability and all receive according to their needs (the basic element of pure socialism) is a Utopian concept. It works well in theory, but in practice Utopias often become the opposite - dystopias - because of the simple flaw of greed and human nature. At first, simply being free from the restrictions and slavery imposed upon them by the farmer is sufficient. All work hard to create the perfect world, and none resent the work or wish for more than their share. But, and this is the main reason why socialism is better on paper then in practice, it is not long before the need for leadership is recognized. The pigs agree to act as leaders and soon they want more than their fair share because they feel as though they are entitled to it. Thus the Utopia devolves into dystopia - the perfect world is no more.
- Can a society exist by using the tennets of communism for more than one generation?
- Is communism a better method of governing than capitalism?
- Is communism fair to all elements of society?
- Is communism prone to corruption more than other forms of government?
The communist leaders are compared to pigs who run everything and live a lavish lifestyle off of the backs of the workers. How might this comparison work with a capitalist or socialist form of government?
We see that the horse was the most exploited of all of the workers, yet he remained true to the cause. How is this true of persons today who are exploited yet believe in the political party to whom they have given their allegiance?
Some former patriots such as Snowball were villified by the current leaders in the novel Animal Farm. How is this true of persons in politics today?
Another issue Orwell raises and it may be related to the response above: The public needs to hold leaders in check and accountable for their actions.
The character Napoleon plays clearly represents Stalin, but the purpose of the novel for us today is to ensure a reign like his is not repeated. Our countries rely on many democratic procedures today and we fight for the freedom of others from dictatorial rule. Humanity demands we take such a role.
The distribution of power was wildly out of order in increasing levels throughout the book. If you wanted to look through a single worded lens I think you could take either power or leadership and find plenty of examples to demonstrate what went wrong.