In Chapter VII, Orwell focuses again on the gap between the tirelessness of the animals’ efforts and the benefits they receive. We discussed earlier that, because Stalin focused more on heavy industry than on consumer products, the Soviet people faced shortages of the things they needed the most. Because of chronic shortages in the Soviet Union, there arose the cliché of standing in line for most anything one wanted, including food and toilet paper. When one wanted to purchase a bigger item, such as a car, one was put on the end of a seemingly interminable list. On a side note, Stalin’s focus on heavy industry corresponded with his name—meaning steel—which he chose for himself (Stalin was born with the much more ethnically-specific surname Dzhugashivili).
Napoleon begins to shelter himself from public scrutiny and makes Squealer and the dogs do his dirty work. This corresponds with Stalin’s habit of being a figure in the shadows. Stalin gave orders from the comfort of his office, while the propagandists and secret police meted out his demands and punishments. The negotiations over the timber represent Stalin’s export of the products of heavy industry. Napoleon’s waffling between Pilkington and Frederick also mirrors Stalin’s caution in dealing with foreign nations.
Meanwhile, in order to distract the animals from their hardships and frustrations, Napoleon increases the amount of propaganda on Animal Farm. Squealer, his agent as usual, cultivates the idea that Snowball is lurking on the perimeter of Animal Farm and plotting mischief against the animals. Napoleon also makes a personal and very public show of claiming to smell Snowball’s scent all around the farm. By giving the impression that Snowball is everywhere, Napoleon at ones makes Snowball, a concrete entity, into a nebulous threat and creates an atmosphere of almost palpable fear: “The animals were thoroughly frightened. It seemed to them as though Snowball were some kind of invisible influence, pervading the air about them and menacing them with all kinds of dangers” (89). By personally investigating Snowball’s whereabouts, Napoleon keeps himself tied to the greater good in the public’s eyes. At once, they feel frightened and also cared for, but they attribute the former feeling to Snowball and the latter to Napoleon.
Soon enough, Napoleon turns Snowball from an outside threat into a pervasive internal threat. Boxer unwittingly gives Squealer the idea when he protests Squealer’s revision of Snowball’s heroism. Only after Boxer challenges him does Squealer first warn the animals that Snowball’s secret agents have infiltrated their ranks. Here, Orwell satirizes Stalin’s intensification of fear tactics. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, people of every gender, age, and profession were suspected of treachery. Many were forced to confess to things they did not do, all in the name of keeping the public subdued by fear. At this point, we should recall that the Red Terror, the first organized attempt to stamp out anti-Communist sentiment in the Soviet Union, was Lenin’s prerogative. Therefore it predated Trotsky and Stalin’s debates as well as Trotsky’s expulsion. It stands to reason that Orwell skips over the Red Terror in order to assign all terrorist tactics to Napoleon (as opposed to including Snowball). Orwell’s experiences in the Spanish Civil War, in which he fought on the side of Trotskyists, may have informed this omission as well.
In any case, Napoleon’s execution assembly represents the Moscow Trials and the Great Purge, Stalin’s widespread campaign to suppress any and all dissent in the Soviet Union. Indeed, this was a far cry from the cooperation and good cheer with which the Animalism revolution began. In the Soviet Union, it began as a “cleansing” of the Communist Party and was expanded to one of the entire, vast Soviet population, among which tens of millions were killed or deported. In the Moscow Trials of 1936-1938, Stalin incriminated many party leaders, charging them with crimes ranging from conspiracy to attempted assassination. The accused gave their confessions, seemingly freely in front of a general assembly, just as Napoleon’s accused give theirs in front of all the other animals. This gave lookers-on a reason to believe that the traitors were rightfully accused, another belief we see repeated in Animal Farm. As Orwell suggests in the text, Stalin (and Napoleon) staged the confessions by using violence and fear tactics to coerce the accused. Witnesses at the trials also gave scripted testimony in order to force guilt upon the accused. Stalin had the accused traitors executed (or, if they were lucky, expelled) just as Napoleon has the dogs rip out the throats of the supposed traitors. Despite the publicity of the Moscow Trials, Stalin often had torture and executions performed in secrecy. Orwell makes Napoleon’s purge not only public but especially cruel in order to shed light on the magnitude and barbarism of Stalin’s purges. It is one thing to hear of an execution by humans against humans for political reasons, quite another to contemplate the image of fierce dogs tearing out traitors’ throats.
The Soviet population became terrified of execution and internment in forced labor camps called Gulags. In the novel, the animals’ immediate response to the purge is fear and disillusionment. Shaken, Clover and the other animals try to take comfort in “Beasts of England”—they know that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong but cannot quite describe what or how. They want to focus on the positive ideas of freedom and abundance. Squealer shatters even that comfort when he announces that the song is obsolete and therefore forbidden. We can assume that the real reason Napoleon abolishes it is that, since the animals have committed it to memory, he cannot revise it like the Seven Commandments. Therefore, he forces the animals to forget it, along with the tenets of their beloved Animalism, to be replaced with a new song and new values that are looking more and more like the values under which Mr. Jones ran the farm.