Animal Farm and Orwell’s Politics

Yesterday I started reading George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm, the story about a group of farm animals who overthrow their human master in order to create an animal utopia of equality and prosperity, only then to succumb to the same kind of totalitarian oppression they had experienced before.  This is my first time to read it (I’m on chapter 9, so I don’t yet know the ending). 

It surprised me to learn that George Orwell (the pen name of Eric Blair) was a socialist.  While Animal Farm is an outright assault on communism (aimed directly at the Soviet Union, which was quite popular among Western nations in the years surrounding World War II), it also attacks capitalism as well.  My understanding of Orwell is that he did not object to the idea of socialism but merely to the way the concept had been falsely implemented so as to suppress liberty and equality.  He objected to totalitarianism, which in the Soviet Union had piggy-backed on the idea of socialism.  However, I assume that since he was a socialist, he would have supported any socialist government that did socialism right.

I share Orwell’s hatred of totalitarianism.  Likewise, I believe socialism would be a good thing if it were done right.  But here’s where he and I part company: I don’t believe socialism can be done right in a fallen world.  In order to work, socialism has to pretend that sin is not a factor of human existence.  But sin is a factor of human existence, even a necessary factor in a post-fall world like this one.  The only place where socialism might work would be a place where there was no sin, and for that we must await the eschaton.  In this sense, socialism suffers from an overrealized eschatology.

In another sense, socialism also suffers from an underrealized eschatology.  The climax of history occurs through blind economic forces leading to their inevitable conclusion.  There is no transcendent divine invasion into this world.  The “revolution” is a completely natural event.  From a certain perspective, you could say that socialism really has no eschatology because of its inherent link to atheism. 

If there is an economy to speak of in the new creation (and I believe there will be), then it probably will be something like the socialist utopia that Marxists have long dreamed of (only with God at the center, not ignored or denied).  But until that day comes, I will recognize the truth about human nature and dismiss all earthly utopian dreams as mere fantasy.  Socialism has never succeeded in this world, nor can it.  Capitalism (with some government oversight to ensure fairness) is the best we can do.  I know that capitalism often results in oppression, greed, fraud, and abuse, but what else would you expect in a fallen world?  At least capitalism doesn’t concentrate economic power in the hands of a few who oppress and defraud the nation as a whole.  No “system” will get rid of those vices; only Christ can do that.  In the meantime, the nations of this world are better off with a free market that gives equal opportunity (not equal outcome) to all.   


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