How Orwell’s Animal Farm Predicted Castro’s Cuba

Fidel Castro's rise to power
Fidel Castro’s rise to power bears resemblance to that of the pig Napoleon, his counterpart in “Animal Farm” (O Globo).


George Orwell defined himself as a socialist, perhaps because he was never able to witness the true results of that ideology. At the time of his death, in 1950, the clearest example of those policies was undoubtedly Stalinism in Russia, of which he was a harsh critic and opponent.

His two most important and historically significant works are “1984” and “Rebellion on the Farm.” Both are dystopias that satirically present the most bizarre effects of totalitarianism on societies.

In “Animal Farm” a clear reference is made to revolutionary systems, their true effects, and the manner in which new orders usually end up becoming dictatorial systems.

The book features a group of animals fed up with human abuse and exploitation, who, after an intense process of indoctrination led by pigs (the most intelligent animals on the farm), end up fomenting a revolution and establishing a new hierarchical organizational order in which humans are completely eviscerated and pigs take over.

It is said that Wells wrote with the Russian Revolution in mind, but his vision and clarity of ideas allowed him to anticipate how each revolution would proceed throughout contemporary history.

In “Animal Farm”, Napoleon was the revolutionary leader who knew how to gain the trust and confidence of the rest of the animals, to form a leadership slate with the other pigs that promised to finally expel the humans of the farm in order to impose a new order.

The way the fable unfolds is surprisingly accurate when we compare it to revolutionary realities; Napoleon ends up getting sick of power and expels even his closest friends from the farm for daring to question his authority. He ends up dressing like a human. He learns to walk on two legs, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, and to exploit the governed.

In the end, Napoleon the pig ends up implementing an order quite similar to the human one, only with an extra touch of tyranny that is based on the dose of fear that he injects those who dare to think about revolting.

Fidel Castro should be remembered as Napoleon, the pig of the Cuban farm who expelled the tyrant Batista to turn himself into a renewed version of tyranny, to settle into power indefinitely, to adopt his vices and bad practices and to silence everyone who refuses to conform to the new rules.

His most important judge in history (something that seemed to greatly concern the now deceased dictator), will be his legacy. A legacy that has much more to do with misery, poverty, and repression than with medical and altruistic advances as many insist on opining.

Fidel will be remembered as a contradictory figure: wearing a Rolex and drinking Coca-Cola while giving anti-capitalist speeches. He will be remembered for justifying the construction of luxurious hotels in poverty-stricken villages to attract American tourist dollars, while also railing against American imperialism. And above all, he will be remembered as a “revolutionary” agent of change, who was nonetheless established with lifetime power.

All the arguments that have been written in defense of the Cuban regime are written on sand, filled with half-truths, deceptions, and outright lies. They are so barely credible that they appear to be propaganda.

While Fidel and his relatives inhabit a world of unimaginable riches and luxuries, prostitution remains on the streets of Havana as one of few means to escape from poverty. Tens of thousands of Cubans, meanwhile, have risked death to cross the Caribbean Sea on flimsy vessels, leaving behind all they know, to escape what many on the left continue to deem an “earthly paradise.”

Many on the left are also quick to cite the US trade embargo as the main cause of socialist failure, not realizing that this implies a recognition of the need for free markets and capitalism to generate development and progress.

Even to those who are deluded enough to believe that Cuba is better off with Castro than without, we can not forget that nothing is free, and Cubans are paying the price with the most precious thing that a human can possess, which is their freedom.

In Cuba you can not earn more than the government establishes, you can not travel freely abroad, you can not be an opponent of the government in a safe and democratic way, you can not start a business, and you can not get ahead without depending on the state.

What is possible is to dream of a better future, and Fidel’s death seems to be bringing the Cuban people one step closer to that goal that has seemed so elusive for so long.

“Animal Farm” in fiction and the Cuban Revolution in reality have much to teach us. The path to true change can not be solely ascertained by a few intellectuals, and it is not advisable to empower those who claim to be the sources of truth, since when they get their first taste of power they end up adapting the rules and conditions of the game to their advantage, without exception. The only sustainable way is freedom.

In “Animal Farm” one of the rules initially proposed was that it was forbidden to kill another animal. Once Napoleon the pig did not want to be bothered with this rule, he changed the regulation to state that it was forbidden “without reason.”

Those of us who consider ourselves to be defenders of liberty like Orwell must fear and condemn any show of totalitarianism. There is no one more dangerous than those who believe that they know what is best for everyone else and are prepared to use force and indoctrination to implement their vision.

Fidel, a great enemy of freedom, has died. But we must be careful, for there are still many pigs on the farm.

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