Rereading George Orwell’s Animal Farm last month made me realize how effective the text works as an attack of the Stalinist regime of the former Soviet Union. In the standard reading of the novel, it is construed not only as a critique of the specific example of the excesses of Stalin but the entire project of social transformation. The underlying premise of how every revolt is bound to end up in greater oppression rather than liberation has made the novel a staple of counter-revolutionary discourse.
But the material conditions for a revolutionary event akin to that of October 1917 continues to haunt the present as masses of workers and peasants all over the World continues to suffer even greater loss of jobs, homes, and income and the rising prices of commodities and basic social services such as health and education. The poor becomes poorer as the rich becomes richer.
Against the pessimistic outlook presented by the novel, we should hence assert the continuing validity of the struggle for change: that there is something to look forward to beyond the injustices of the present order, that it is right to rebel against an oppressive and exploitative status quo.
Revolution does not end in failure all the time. And even if it does the important thing is the process of rising up to the challenge of the times, of attempting to create something new. As the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze said,
It is fashionable these days to condemn the horrors of the revolution… They say revolutions turn out badly. But they’re constantly confusing two different things, the way revolutions turn out historically and people’s revolutionary becoming. These relate to two different sets of people. Men’s only hope lies in a revolutionary becoming: the only way of casting off their shame or responding to what is intolerable.
Or as the Slovenian cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek said in his paraphrase of a line from Samuel Beckett: “after one fails, one can go on and fail better, while indifference drowns us deeper and deeper in the morass of imbecilic Being.”
As the world capitalist system suffers its worse crisis since the 1930s, the ruling order in the Philippines continues to disintegrate in a socio-economic crisis of graver proportions and thus hastens the possibility for radical change in the next decade. As Mao puts it, “There is great disorder under heaven, the situation is excellent.” ■