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George Orwell's Animal Farm – Ch. VII - An Academic Collaboration of the Symbolism Relating to the 1932-33 Soviet Ukrainian Famine- Genocide (Holodomor).

by Nigel Linsan Colley

As brief note on my critique below - I have attempted to breakdown each paragraph of Orwell's original text and then immediately inserted my personal interpretations of Orwell’s symbolism from the previous paragraph. Improvements or other interpretations would be gratefully received. 


IT WAS A BITTER WINTER. The stormy weather was followed by sleet and snow, and then by a hard frost which did not break till well into February. The animals carried on as best they could with the rebuilding of the windmill, well knowing that the outside world was watching them and that the envious human beings would rejoice and triumph if the mill were not finished on time 

Chapter VII opens with a clear parallel to the 1932-33 Famine with a bleak winter and that the Soviets were aware that the western world was eager to see the USSR fail in its Five-Year Plan. 

Out of spite, the human beings pretended not to believe that it was Snowball who had destroyed the windmill: they said that it had fallen down because the walls were too thin. The animals knew that this was not the case. Still, it had been decided to build the walls three feet thick this time instead of eighteen inches as before, which meant collecting much larger quantities of stone. For a long time the quarry was full of snowdrifts and nothing could be done. Some progress was made in the dry frosty weather that followed, but it was cruel work, and the animals could not feel so hopeful about it as they had felt before. They were always cold, and usually hungry as well. Only Boxer and Clover never lost heart. Squealer made excellent speeches on the joy of service and the dignity of labour, but the other animals found more inspiration in Boxer's strength and his never-failing cry of ‘I will work harder!’ 

The second paragraph alludes to west not believing that Trotsky (Snowball) was to blame for any failings in the Five-Year Plan – the plan itself was flawed - though the Soviet people were still to believe otherwise. 

'Build the walls' refers to Soviet grain exports being increased in order to pay for Industrialisation in the midst of severely low grain prices, during the world depression of the early thirties. 

Again the winter was bad, but work went on with the spring sowing – but hunger was now prevalent and ‘cruel work’ perhaps relates to forced labour in Siberia and elsewhere… The rank and file party faithful, represented by Boxer and Clover carried on regardless. 

Squealer (or the newspapers PRAVDA / IZVESTIA) put a good spin on the results of Collectivisation often highlighting individuals for special praise within their columns. 

In January food fell short. The corn ration was drastically reduced, and it was announced that an extra potato ration would be issued to make up for it. Then it was discovered that the greater part of the potato crop had been frosted in the clamps, which had not been covered thickly enough. The potatoes had become soft and discoloured, and only a few were edible. For days at a time the animals had nothing to eat but chaff and mangels. Starvation seemed to stare them in the face. 

In January, famine was widespread; food was taken away from the peasants to keep up grain exports for hard cash. In exchange the party proclaimed that the workers would be given potatoes instead but due to the fact that un-skilled farmers used incompetent farming methods even the potato crop failed. 

The peasants were forced to eat scraps of anything – Enter the word ‘Starvation’ which was seen as inevitable. 

It was vitally necessary to conceal this fact from the outside world. Emboldened by the collapse of the windmill, the human beings were inventing fresh lies about Animal Farm. Once again it was being put about that all the animals were dying of famine and disease, and that they were continually fighting among themselves and had resorted to cannibalism and infanticide. Napoleon was well aware of the bad results that might follow if the real facts of the food situation were known, and he decided to make use of Mr Whymper to spread a contrary impression. 

Here, 'human beings' is a definite reference to Gareth Jones  in Animal Farm...First, take a  look at this following sentence from Eugene Lyons' book, 'Assignment in Utopia' (which is certainly Orwell's main source of information for his famine section) and note the use of 'human being' to describe Gareth::

"Poor Gareth Jones must have been the most surprised human being alive when the facts he so painstakingly garnered from our mouths were snowed under by our denials."

[Lyons is referring to an episode when the American press corps combined to 'damn Jones' as a liar, in their suppression of the famine so as to be allowed by the Soviets to cover the forthcoming trial of the British Metroivik engineers - See Lyons full chapter; 'The Press Corps Conceals a Famine'  HERE.]

Now, consider what better name could Orwell have chosen for one of his actual human beings in AF than 'Mr Jones'? However, Orwell uses the term human being 28 times in AF - 27 times are nothing to do with Gareth, unless of course you count this one occurrence; 'The only good human being is a dead one.' But, if one considers that Orwell started writing and formulating his ideas for AF at about the same time as reviewing Lyons in 1938, and especially how important Lyons was to Orwell, then Gareth as a 'human being' would have been to the fore in Orwell's mind - Plus Lyons' sentence describing Gareth is a most damning one which should be considered with Orwell's later essays concerning the suppression of the press. [See here for a paper arguing that Gareth Jones was actually behind the naming of Mr Jones the Farmer.]

Returning to the above Orwell's text, after February 23rd, the Soviets prevented journalists from travelling outside Moscow, so as to help conceal the famine from the outside world.  Gareth was the only journalist to defy this ban – Muggeridge had travelled to the Kuban region and Caucasus in mid February before it came into force. Gareth was quoted in his 30th March 1933 Berlin Press release: “His [Jones] report explains the dislike of the Russian authorities to having conditions in the Soviet investigated”.  In this case Gareth Jones is the primary human being who told the truth by exposing the famine, which the Soviets called ‘lies’.  Gareth reported in his 29th March 1933, Berlin Press Interview of famine and disease: “Everywhere I heard the cry: ‘There is no bread: we are dying.

The Red Army was sent in to quell Ukrainian civil unrest. – From Gareth’s press interview:  “Soldiers warned me against travelling by night, as there were too many desperate men about” and “Mr. Jones saw famine on a huge scale and the revival of a murderous terror”.

‘Bruder in Not’ (Brothers in Need) - the Berlin religious charity gave the first reports of cannibalism and infanticide. Also see Cardinal Innitzer who reported famine in the NYT on 20th August 1933 http://www.garethjones.org/soviet_articles/innitzer.htm where he states “Famine conditions there are accompanied by such cruel phenomena of mass starvation as infanticide and cannibalism.” 

At this time Stalin though leader, was not fully in control of the party and realised if he did not act to hide the famine, there were factions of the party who still had the power to oust him (e.g. Kirov) – as it was seen as his own policy. 

Enter My Whymper to help conceal the famine.  Whymper at this juncture in the sentence above could be Walter Duranty of the NYT, in his article denigrating Gareth Jones as a liar on 31st March 1933, but it then becomes clear in the next paragraph that Orwell is alluding to George Bernard Shaw. 

Hitherto the animals had had little or no contact with Whymper on his weekly visits: now, however, a few selected animals, mostly sheep, were instructed to remark casually in his hearing that rations had been increased. In addition. Napoleon ordered the almost empty bins in the store-shed to be filled nearly to the brim with sand, which was then covered up with what remained of the grain and meal. On some suitable pretext Whymper was led through the store-shed and allowed to catch a glimpse of the bins. He was deceived, and continued to report to the outside world that there was no food shortage on Animal Farm. 

Now Whymper is most probably George Bernard Shaw who with Lord and Lady Astor were’ led by the nose’ to see model Collective farms in 1931, on the occasion of Shaw’s 75th Birthday. As Gareth reported again in his March 1933 Berlin press release: “After Dictator Josef V. Stalin the starving Russians most hate George Bernard Shaw for his accounts of their plentiful food.” In ‘Experiences of Russia -1931 – A Diary’ Jack Heinz II’s (of Ketchup fame) book based on Gareth’s notes, a Russian priest is quoted: Priest: “What is wrong with George Bernard Shaw?  Is he mad?  He saw nothing at all. If only he could see one-hundredth of what the peasants are suffering.  It is unbelievable that he can be so easily fooled.” 

In late August and early September 1933, the 'red carpet treatment' was also afforded to the former French Prime Minister, Edouard Herriot, who made a well-documented tour from Odessa through Ukraine and North Caucasus. Edward Coote first secretary at the British Embassy noted in a dispatch to the Foreign Office on 11th September 1933: "The red carpet treatment which the Soviet Government spread before the feet of its distinguished guests has now become proverbial; and on this occasion the Soviet authorities were at pains to see that the carpet was on extra width, of splendid texture, of the deepest pile and most carefully brushed". Coote continued: "... rigorous steps were taken to keep all undesirable elements  far removed from the streets and railway stations through  which M. Herriot passed, and extra rations of food, taken from the army reserve, and even clothes were issued to the townspeople." I believe Orwell would have known about Herriot's trip through reading chapter VI in Ewald Ammende's 1936 book (published by George Allen & Unwin in London)  "Human Life in Russia" entitled "The Testimony of Monsieur Herriot".

Nevertheless, towards the end of January it became obvious that it would be necessary to procure some more grain from somewhere. In these days Napoleon rarely appeared in public, but spent all his time in the farmhouse, which was guarded at each door by fierce-looking dogs. When he did emerge it was in a ceremonial manner, with an escort of six dogs who closely surrounded him and growled if anyone came too near. Frequently he did not even appear on Sunday mornings, but issued his orders through one of the other pigs, usually Squealer. 

The first sentence reiterates that a famine was imminent, if the situation did not change, which it didn’t… Though an alternative slant might be that world grain prices fell even further in the globally depressed market, and for Stalin to gain the same amount of hard currency he had to increase grain exports further. 

Stalin may not have been seen in public remaining in the Kremlin (farmhouse) surrounded by his OGPU bodyguards (dogs) but still issued decrees through Pravda (Squealer) - Other readers of Orwell see Prime Minister Molotov as Squealer, wishing to put an individual's name to the pig, instead of the concept of propaganda, but either way by 1933, Stalin had achieved total control of the Communist party and Squealer was merely issuing his decrees.

Sundays must allude to Stalin not resorting to prayers in the Atheist state, whereas the peasants still did, despite a decree that between 1931 until 1940 the Soviets had a six day week, in which they had abolished Sundays! See http://personal.ecu.edu/mccartyr/Russia.html  for more details.

One Sunday morning Squealer announced that the hens, who had just come in to lay again, must surrender their eggs. Napoleon had accepted, through Whymper, a contract for four hundred eggs a week. The price of these would pay for enough grain and meal to keep the farm going till summer came on and conditions were easier. 

The hens are clearly Ukrainians and Kulaks (richer independent farmers) – and may allude to Ukrainians maintaining their religious beliefs. Again through Pravda, it was decreed that Kulaks would be forced to work on Collectives and to hand over their cattle. 

Whymper here, I believe becomes Duranty  – known at the time as the ‘Unofficial American Ambassador to Moscow’ who spent 1933 trying to clear the political path for the USSR to be formally recognised as a sovereign state by F.D. Roosevelt (Mr. FreDeRick as Orwell’s relates to him in this chapter)  – even if that meant denying a famine. In November of 1933 Duranty was present Foreign Commissar Litvinov at the White House as the USSR became formally recognised. According to Duranty he was personally thanked first by FDR and later in Moscow for his help in securing diplomatic recognition. 

The contract may allude to the easing of Stalin’s relations with the West where he decided to up his exports of grain in exchange for hard currencies in order top keep up his policy of Industrialisation. Also it was inconceivable to ‘rational’ minds in the West, why anyone would export further grain if it weren’t a commodity in surplus – No-one would intentionally starve his own people? Stalin was hoping he could ride out the ‘storm’ in the blind hope that the next summer harvest would ease the famine crisis. 

When the hens heard this they raised a terrible outcry. They had been warned earlier that this sacrifice might be necessary, but had not believed that it would really happen. They were just getting their clutches ready for the spring sitting, and they protested that to take the eggs away now was murder. For the first time since the expulsion of Jones there was something resembling a rebellion. Led by three young Black Minorca pullets, the hens made a determined effort to thwart Napoleon's wishes. Their method was to fly up to the rafters and there lay their eggs, which smashed to pieces on the floor. Napoleon acted swiftly and ruthlessly. He ordered the hens’ rations to be stopped, and decreed that any animal giving so much as a grain of corn to a hen should be punished by death. The dogs saw to it that these orders were carried out. For five days the hens held out, then they capitulated and went back to their nesting boxes. Nine hens had died in the meantime. Their bodies were buried in the orchard, and it was given out that they had died of coccidiosis. Whymper heard nothing of this affair, and the eggs were duly delivered, a grocer's van driving up to the farm once a week to take them away. 

This is the first time that 'Jones' is mentioned in the famine chapter, though from the context of Soviet history it alludes to Tsar Nicholas, does this also possibly relate to Gareth Jones's own expulsion - i.e. being personally banned by Foreign Commissar Litvinov from ever returning to the USSR?

The peasant farmers in Ukraine found the intended increased grain exports an incredulous proposition, though they had read about it in the Soviet Press. They didn’t believe it to be a reality. 

In the spring the kulak’s kept seed back for sowing – even though eating it would have temporarily put off their hunger, but would then result in no future harvest. The Young Reds (Komsomols) and the OGPU were sent to ensure that grain was taken away for the factory workers.  

“[Napoleon] ordered the hens’ rations to be stopped, and decreed that any animal giving so much as a grain of corn to a hen should be punished by death.” Stalin decreed that kulaks who  protested were murdered in their seizing of the grain. On this point, Gareth wrote in the Western Mail on the 8th April 1933:

“But the Russian peasant in one respect is no different from the Welsh farmer.  He wants his own land, and if his land is taken away from him he will not work. The passive resistance of the peasant has been a stronger factor than all the speeches of Stalin. 

CATTLE SEIZED

In the second place, the cow was taken away from the peasant.  Imagine what would happen in the Vale of Glamorgan or in Cardiganshire if the county councils took away the cows of the farmers!  The cattle were to be owned in common, and cared for in common by the collective farms.  Many of the cattle were seized and, put into vast State cattle factories.

The result of this policy was a widespread massacre of cattle by the peasants, who did not wish to sacrifice their property for nothing.  Another result was that on these State cattle factories, which were entirely unprepared and had not enough sheds, innumerable livestock died of exposure and epidemics.  Horses died from lack of fodder.  The livestock of the Soviet Union foreign experts in Moscow. 

In the third place, six or seven millions of the best farmers (i.e., the Kulaks) in Russia have been uprooted and have been exiled with a barbarity which is not realised in Britain.  Although two years ago the Soviet Government claimed that the Kulak had been, destroyed, the savage drive against the better peasant continued with increased violence last winter.  It was the aim of the Bolsheviks to destroy the Kulaks as a class, because they were “the capitalists of the village.”  

As for the three Minorca Pullets – Could it possibly be Redens, Kosior and Chubar? Though one must ask how Orwell would have known at the time? Anyway, taken from James Mace’s article: “Is the Ukrainian Genocide a Myth?” HOLODOMOR: THE UKRAINIAN GENOCIDE, 1932-1933. Holodomor 70th Anniversary Commemorative Edition. Canadian American Slavic Studies Journal: 

“Consider a private letter of September 11, 1932, from Stalin to Kaganovich, recently published from the personal archives of Lazar Kaganovich: September 11, 1932:

“The main thing is now Ukraine. Matters in Ukraine are now extremely bad. Bad from the standpoint of the Party line. They say that there are two oblasts of Ukraine (Kyiv and Dnipropetrovs'k, it seems) where almost 50 "raikomy" {district Party committees} have come out against the plan of grain procurements, considering them unrealistic. In other "raikomy," they confirm, the matter is no better. What does this look like? This is no party, but a parliament, a caricature of a parliament. Instead of directing the districts, Kosior is always waffling between the directives of the CC VKP(b) and the demands of the district Party committees and waffled to the end. Lenin was right, when he said that a person who lacks the courage at the necessary moment to go against the current cannot be a real Bolshevik leader. Bad from the standpoint of the Soviet {state} line. Chubar is no leader. Bad from the standpoint of the GPU. Redens lacks the energy to direct the struggle with the counterrevolution in such a big and unique republic as Ukraine.

If we do not now correct the situation in Ukraine, we could lose Ukraine.

Consider that Pilsudski is not daydreaming, and his agents in Ukraine are much stronger than Redens or Kosior imagine. Also consider that within the Ukrainian Communist Party (500,000 members, ha, ha) there are not a few (yes, not a few!) rotten elements that are conscious or unconscious Petliura adherents and in the final analysis agents of Pilsudski. If the situation gets any worse, these elements won't hesitate to open a front within (and outside) the Party, against the Party. Worst of all, the Ukrainian leadership doesn't see these dangers. Set yourself the task of turning Ukraine in the shortest possible time into a fortress of the USSR, into the most inalienable republic. Don't worry about money for this purpose.

 

From: Komandyry velykoho holodu: Poyizdky V. Molotova i L. Kahanovycha v Ukrayinu ta na Pivnichnyi Kavkaz, 1932-1933 rr." (Kyiv: Heneza, 2001), Valerii Vasyl'iev, Iurii Shapoval, eds., pp. 174-175; Ukrainian translation, pp. 160-161. Originally published in "Nezavisimaia gazeta," November 30, 2000. 

The relevance of laying the eggs in the rafters and breaking refers to the peasants hiding their grain and rather than giving up their cattle to the collective at no recompense they destroyed instead (no doubt eating the meat themselves).  

According to Yaralsaw Chelak, one should consider: "and there lay their eggs, which smashed to pieces" as a reference to Duranty's famous phrase used in his denigration of Gareth Jones on 31/3/33: "But---to put it brutally---you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and the Bolshevist leaders are just as indifferent to the casualties that may be involved in their drive toward socializaton."

The OGPU / Red Army was sent in and ruthlessly terrorised the peasants – hiding grain then became a capital punishment. Stalin would force collectivisation through – and eventually in succeed, and even it meant sending the kulaks to Siberia. - Those who remained eventually all worked in the Collective farms after 5 months of terror. 

Nine hens’ obviously relates to a guesstimate of 9 million deaths from murder or starvation. 

Duranty belittled Gareth on 31st March stating that: “…he [Jones] had seen no dead or dying animals or human beings”. To which Gareth replied on the 13th May in NYT: “Mr. Duranty says that I saw in the villages no dead human beings nor animals.  That is true, but one does not need a particularly nimble brain to grasp that even in the Russian famine districts the dead are buried and that there the dead animals are devoured. 

In the same sentence it is written “and it was given out that they had died of coccidiosis, which directly refers to Gareth’s public spat with Duranty – Duarnty wrote on the 31st March: “there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.” And to which Gareth replied: “Journalists, on the other hand, are allowed to write, but the censorship has turned them into masters of euphemism and understatement.  Hence they give “famine” the polite name of  “food shortage” and “starving to death” is softened down to read as “widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”  

The final sentence of Orwell’s paragraph mentions Whymper again, partly as Duranty where he ‘knew nothing’ of an on-going famine, but also relates to the Western customers of the grain who still got their deliveries as promised.   

An alternative suggestion for the sentence might be, according to Cheryl Madden (editor of the Canadian-American Slavic Studies "Holodomor: The Ukrainian Genocide 1932-33" and author of the Bibliography, available online at: www.shevchenko.org/famine ), that the grocery vans were actually used by the Soviets OGPU and later during the Great Purges by the NKVD to take away those arrested, especially in the cities. The number of those arrested was so great that it was feared that the people might rebel if they could so easily sum up the numbers of those arrested by counting prison vans operating throughout the city. So, rather than use the better-known "Black Maria's," or regular prison vans, bread trucks/vans were commonly used as prison vehicles. 

 The number of these vans also served to deceive observers (especially those foreigners who might have seen them in the streets) by disguising the prevalent food shortages, since Soviet officials could point out the number of "bread" vans to seemingly verify that all was well with the food supply situation. The fact was, however, that the interiors of these vans were altered to make them functional as for taking prisoners away.

To end this analysis I include Gareth’s last words written on the Soviet Union in 1933 from a Daily Express article entitled “Good-Bye Russia” published on the 11th April: 

“‘What then is the lesson of Soviet Russia?’  

 

It is that a State cannot live upon the doctrine of class warfare and that the ideas we have in Britain of personal freedom and of the rights of each individual man are not so far wrong and must be defended at all costs.” 

----------------------------- 

From here onwards in the chapter VII, Orwell mainly relates to Trotsky and the Moscow Show trials, with a possible inference to Gareth’s friend and colleague, Paul Scheffer, the first journalist (of the Berliner Tageblatt) to be banned in 1929, for his anti-Stalinist reporting, later being accused in the Third Bukharin Show Trial of 1938 of being the leader of a Nazi Spy ring involved with the sabotage of Soviet grain – whilst he was editor of the Berliner Tageblatt – but that is another story… (http://www.uanews.tv/archives/famine/holodomor7.htm

All this while no more had been seen of Snowball. He was rumoured to be hiding on one of the neighbouring farms, either Foxwood or Pinchfield. Napoleon was by this time on slightly better terms with the other farmers than before. It happened that there was in the yard a pile of timber which had been stacked there ten years earlier when a beech spinney was cleared. It was well seasoned, and Whymper had advised Napoleon to sell it; both Mr Pilkington and Mr Frederick were anxious to buy it. Napoleon was hesitating between the two, unable to make up his mind. It was noticed that whenever he seemed on the point of coming to an agreement with Frederick, Snowball was declared to be in hiding at Foxwood, while when he inclined towards Pilkington, Snowball was said to be at Pinchfield.

Suddenly, early in the spring, an alarming thing was discovered. Snowball was secretly frequenting the farm by night! The animals were so disturbed that they could hardly sleep in their stalls. Every night, it was said, he came creeping in under cover of darkness and performed all kinds of mischief. He stole the corn, he upset the milk-pails, he broke the eggs, he trampled the seed-beds, he gnawed the bark off the fruit trees. Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball. If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Snowball had come in the night and done it, and when the key of the stores-shed was lost the whole farm was convinced that Snowball had thrown it down the well. Curiously enough they went on believing this even after the mislaid key was found under a sack of meal. The cows declared unanimously that Snowball crept into their stalk and milked them in their sleep. The rats, which had been troublesome that winter, were also said to be in league with Snowball….

Contributors:

Nigel Linsan Colley

Cheryl Madden

Yaroslaw Chelak

 


With sincere thanks to the late Dr. James Mace for his continued support in this project, academic help and welcomed praise for my research in compiling the above document:

-----Original Message-----
From: James Mace [mailto:jmace2003"at"yahoo.com]
Sent: 12 February 2004 20:23
To: Nigel Colley
Subject: Orwell

 Dear Nigel,

I just got around to reading your excellent reading of Animal Farm.

I too think that identifying the three pullets is pushing it a bit much. Even Arthur Koestler, who was living in Kharkiv at the time, could not have picked this out of the daily press.

On the whole, I think it is an excellent piece of detective work that not only does your uncle's memory credit but also helps those who study Orwell.

Best wishes to you and Siriol,

Jim


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Original Research, Content & Site Design by Nigel Linsan Colley. Copyright © 2001-11 All Rights Reserved Original document transcriptions by M.S. Colley.Click here for Legal Notices.  For all further details email:  Nigel Colley or Tel: (+44)  07796 303  8888