Old Major, the Karl Marx figure in this novel, insists that the misery of the animals' lives is due to their labor being exploited. The animals toil from dawn to dusk to grow the crops and lay the eggs that the humans, like Farmer Jones, then sell at a profit. Yet almost none of that profit comes back to them. They are given just enough to eat to stay alive and housed in poor conditions, without heat or indoor plumbing. Further, once they are no longer able to work, they are sold to the glue factory to be killed.
In contrast, Old Major says, the humans live in ease and comfort on the profits of the hard work the animals do. This situation is unfair, he says, and will not change until the animals, at some future date, rise up and take control of the farm themselves. Then they can sell the goods they produce and use all the profits to make their own lives better.
Old Major envisions a time in which the animals can live happier lives, with more food, better shelter, and shorter work days, as well as old age retirement in green pastures after the revolution that is to come. This revolution arrive faster than the animals think, and for a very short time, they experience this bliss.